Stephen Wolfram: It was Steve Jobs who named ‘Mathematica’

December 11, 2011, 2:45 AM UTC

The creator of the answer engine in Siri writes about his long relationship with Jobs

Wolfram. Photo: Creative Commons

There are a several novel anecdotes about Apple’s (AAPL) late CEO in the piece British scientist Stephen Wolfram wrote for Saturday’s The Guardian.

  • While at NeXT, Jobs took great interest in Wolfram’s breakthrough algebra-solving computer program and even came up with a name for it: Mathematica
  • When Wolfram asked Jobs to blurb A New Kind of Science, Wolfram’s 2002 book about how nature acts like a digital system obeying simple programs, Jobs demurred: “Isaac Newton didn’t have back-cover quotes; why should you?”
  • Jobs chose Wolfram Alpha, rather than Google’s (GOOG) search engine, as the answer engine in Siri, the iPhone 4S’s digital assistant.
  • At one visit during the NeXT years, Jobs apologized for becoming distracted. “He said he was going out that night on a date with a woman he’d met the day before and suddenly all his confidence as a technologist and businessman melted away.” That woman was Laurene Powell.

Wolfram, who received a Ph.D. in particle physics at age 20 and one of the first McCarthur “genius” grants at age 21, writes of the awe in which he held Jobs’ intellect:

One of the things I always admired about Steve Jobs was his clarity of thought. Time and again, he would take a complex situation, understand its essence and use that understanding to make a bold and unexpected move.

Not a bad blurb. You can read Wolfram’s full piece here.