LANCE: One of us should blog about Don Knuth turning 80.

BILL: How about both of us, sep posts?

Lance had his post here. Now its my turn.

Donald Knuth was the first person (roughly- history is not as definite as mathematics) to use mathematics to analyse algorithms. This may seem like an obvious thing to do but that's easy to say in retrospect. And he never lost focus: He may have to use some hard math to analyze algorithms but his goal always was to analyze algorithms. He didn't get fascinated with some obscure aspect of math like, say, surreal numbers, and go write a book on it. Oh wait, he did (see here). But, for the most part everything he did was towards faster algorithm and faster typesetting.

*In an early draft of a book review of*

*Companion \to the Papers of Donald Knuth*I wrote at the end of it

*Donald Knuth has been called the father of Theoretical Computer Science and hence his thoughts are worth knowing*

I usually email my reviews to the author so they can make sure I didn't say anything stupid or in some very rare cases have a rebuttal. In Knuth's case I postal mailed it (ask your grandparents what that is) since he does not use email. He mailed back the hardcopy with some corrections in pencil. One of them was to cross out

*father of theoretical computer science*

*and replace it with*

*father of algorithmic analysis.*

*I made the correction. That is how he views himself and it would be odd to argue the point.*

As a tribute to him I have gathered up all of the book reviews in my column of books by him (between 10 and 12 depending on how you count) and books clearly inspired by him (1 book- A=B) into one file which I point to here.

It might be also a good idea to celebrate one's 81st birthday as it is 3^4. Maybe next year?

ReplyDeleteI think that Knuth's revision is fair, especially because I think we should reserve "father of Theoretical Computer Science" for Turing.

ReplyDelete