Stephen Wolfram published his first scientific paper at the age of 15, and received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Caltech by the age of 20. Wolfram's early scientific work was mainly in high-energy physics, quantum field theory, and cosmology. Wolfram became a leader in the emerging field of scientific computing, and in 1979 he began the construction of SMP, the first modern computer algebra system, which he released commercially in 1981, the same year he became the youngest recipient of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship.
He then set out to understand the origins of complexity in nature, which led to a wide range of applications, and provided the main scientific foundations for such initiatives as complexity theory and artificial life. Wolfram himself used his ideas to develop a new randomness generation system and a new approach to computational fluid dynamics.
After a highly successful career in academia, Wolfram launched Wolfram Research, Inc., and began the development of Mathematica in late 1986. Mathematica was released in 1988 and was immediately hailed as a major advance in computing.
Following the release of Mathematica Version 2 in 1991, Wolfram began to divide his time between Mathematica development and scientific research. By the mid-1990s, his discoveries led him to develop a fundamentally new conceptual framework, which he then spent the remainder of the 1990s applying, not only to new kinds of questions, but also to many existing foundational problems in physics, biology, computer science, mathematics, and several other fields.
Wolfram described his achievements in his 1200-page book A New Kind of Science. Released on May 14, 2002, the book was widely acclaimed and immediately became a bestseller. Its publication has been seen as initiating a paradigm shift of historic importance in science. Wolfram is now developing a series of research and educational initiatives in the science he has created.