Code-cracking math professor shares secrets March 21


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Did you ever wonder how you wound up with the driver’s license number that you have? A mathematics professor’s curiosity led to cracking the code for some states, and he’ll share that lesson in a March 21 talk at the University of Louisville.

    University of Minnesota-Duluth professor Joseph Gallian, a Mathematical Association of America past president, will discuss “Breaking Driver’s License Codes,” at 6:30 p.m. in Room 101, Strickler Hall. His free, public talk is the annual Bullitt lecture sponsored by the UofL mathematics department.

    The Bullitt family endowed the general-interest lecture series to honor former U.S. Solicitor General William Marshall Bullitt’s interest in mathematics.

    Gallian’s attempts to figure out the formulas that states use in issuing the license numbers led him to break the code for Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri. He is expected to discuss how the task required problem-solving techniques that scientists use and how exploring things “just for the fun of it” can lead to other applications.

    A Minnesota-Duluth faculty member since 1972, Gallian has won national and university teaching awards; he teaches a humanities course on Beatles music and a liberal arts course on math and sports as well as traditional math classes. He served the Mathematical Association of America as president in 2007-08.

    For more information, call Jake Wildstrom at 502-852-5845 or check

    Judy Hughes
    Judy Hughes is a senior communications and marketing coordinator for UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing and associate editor of UofL Magazine. She previously worked in news as a writer and editor for a daily newspaper and The Associated Press.