Dijkstra is dead

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Dijkstra is dead

Post by xenon » Fri Aug 09, 2002 4:14 pm

Three days ago E.W. Dijkstra died. Most of us here know him for his method for solving shortest routes through graphs (that's how I heard from him, by solving problems here), but he was one of the world famous computer pioneers. I took the liberty to translate an obituary from the Dutch newspaper NRC into English, and post it here.
"If one buys a computer nowadays, one gets a load of dirty software with it: insufficiently documented, unclear features, all very badly constructed - the number of times the system crashes is uncountable; permit me to say, it's rubbish."
This quote, from a Dutch newspaper two years ago, is typical for the computer scientist Edsger Wybe Dijkstra, who died on August 6 in Nuenen, Holland. The professor emeritus from the university of Austin, Texas, who suffered from cancer, was 72 years of age.

Dijktra, born 1930 in Rotterdam, who studied mathematics and physics in Leiden, and took his Ph.D. on computer communications, is a world famous pioneer in the field of computer sciences. From 1952 to 1962 he worked at the Mathematical Center in Amsterdam as the first computer programmer at that institute. From 1962 to 1984 he was professor at the Technical University of Eindhoven. In 1984 he moved to Austin, Texas, to work at the university until his retirement in 1999.

He got many honorary degrees and awards, among which the Turing Award in 1972. This prize is regarded as the 'Nobel Prize for Computer Sciences'.

Dijkstra is most known for his theories about structured programming. His ideas can be found in a lot of programming languages. The scientist, who was better known abroad then in the Netherlands, strived for a transparent and error free method of programming. He had nothing good to say about the present day computer and software industry. "The only thing that matters, is that you can knock something together that you can sell. The quality of it is unimportant."

The tragic about Dijkstra's scientific work, that he wrote by hand and not with a computer, is that it didn't catch much attention outside the academic world. Software errors (like computer viri, lost files, system crashes) cause billions of Euros of loss every year. However, there is hardly anyone that applies Dijkstra's programming methods to commercial software. Also Dijkstra didn't think very much of computer science students. "The youngster rather go out to earn millions in business or industry.". The wrong motivation to start a study, the late professor said. You don't study "to earn money, but because you don't want to get bored the rest of your life."

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Very sad

Post by shahriar_manzoor » Sat Aug 10, 2002 5:36 am

Very sad news indeed :cry: . One of the greatest friend of problemsetters and contestant is no more. Here is another article on him found on the internet:

http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/UTCS/not ... dobit.html

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