225px Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

Recently I watched a really interesting video regarding Dijkstra called Discipline in Thought.

Among the domains in which his scientific contributions are fundamental are:

  • algorithm design

  • programming languages

  • program design

  • operating systems

  • distributed processing

  • formal specification and verification

  • design of mathematical arguments

Which got me thinking who perhaps are the greatest computer scientists of all time? My list would be:

  • Charles Babbage, 1791 - 1871

  • Alan Turing, 1912 - 1954

  • John von Neumann, 1903 - 1957

  • Edsger Dijkstra, 1930 - 2002

  • Donald Knuth, 1938 - current

Whilst the first three are responsible for establishing the computer industry, Dijkstra and Knuth are probably the greatest of the industrial era (post World War 2), computer science’s founding generation.

I have stated skim reading some of his writings from the University of Texas archive of Dijkstra’s writings.

Among the great quotes from the video:

  • Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.

  • The competent programmer is fully aware of the limited size of his own skull. He therefore approaches his task in full humility and avoids clever tricks like the plague.

  • We should not introduce errors through sloppiness but systematically keep them out.

  • Program testing can convincingly show the presence of bugs but it is hopelessly inadequate to show their absence.

  • Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a factor that decides between success and failure.

I am endeavouring to finding the time to read more of his many writings, primarily for clarity of thought, writing style and content.

To contrast what seems to be the hacker culture, I leave you with this quote.

I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself "Dijkstra would not have liked this", well, that would be enough immortality for me.
EWD 1213: Introducing a course on calculi
— Dijkstra
dijkstra quick n dirty s

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