Friday, July 28, 2017

Peter Wegner (1932-2017)

Peter Wegner passed away yesterday morning at the age of 84. As a child he escaped Stalinist Russia and Nazi-occupied Austria the latter via the Kindertransport to England. Wegner would go on to be an important computer scientist at Brown working on CS research and education.

With Dina Goldin, Peter Wegner developed a notion of interactive computation  and used it to argue for the incompleteness of the Church-Turing thesis. While I didn't agree with this interpretation, I appreciated Wegner's efforts to understanding the basic nature of computing. Peter Wegner later organized an ACM Ubiquity Symposium What is Computation? where he sought many view on the question, including my own.

Peter Wegner said "In computer science we work with possibilities and hope we’ll someday be able to solve them." Here's to all things possible.


  1. Interesting -- I missed this controversy the first time around on this blog, or else forgot about it. After reading the 2006 comment thread, I checked out Goldin's web site for her theory of computation course at UConn -- she teaches the Sipser book in an entirely unexceptional way but gives a link to the Goldin-Wegner paper and asserts (in a small fraction of one lecture) that it refutes "an incorrect version of the CTT".

  2. I worked w/Peter at Brown in the early 80s - he was also one of the early and influential people in bringing object-oriented programming into the mainstream of computing (hard to believe there was a time when it wasn't) ... missing from the above is also the fact that he was just a really, really nice guy...