Today is Donald Knuth's 70th birthday!
Donald Ervin Knuth was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 10, 1938. He received his BS and MS degrees from Case Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1963.
Knuth is probably best known for his three-volume work, The Art of Computer Programming, which popularized the analysis of algorithms as a basic tool of computer science. Volume 4, on combinatorial algorithms, is in preparation and parts have been published as "fascicles", preliminary to the final version.
Knuth is responsible for the theory of LR parsing, which he invented in a 1965 article. This method forms the basis for most modern compilers.
Knuth is the inventor of TeX, a system for typesetting mathematics that is used today by most mathematicians and computer scientists to prepare their papers.
Knuth is the recipient of many awards, including the 1974 Turing award (computer science's highest award).
My blogging friends in mathematics and computer science have put together a little birthday tribute to him:
- Mark Chu-Carroll, over at Good Math, Bad Math, offers this assessment of Knuth's contributions to typesetting.
- The irrepressible Doron Zeilberger sings Knuth's praises in this post, written in Zeilberger's inimitable style.
- From David Eppstein, a beautiful analysis of a backtracking algorithm to solve the exact cover problem.
- From Scott Aaronson, a review of Knuth's views on philosophy and God.
- From Luca Trevisan this lovely appreciation.
- From Bill Gasarch, an appraisal of Knuth's impact.
- From Suresh Venkatasubramanian, how to pick a random element from a set whose cardinality is unknown.
- Last but not least is my own little contribution.
There might be some more contributions later, so check back!
Still not satisified? You can look at this 1999 Salon piece, or this offbeat biography of Knuth from a future historian, or this NPR interview, or Knuth's own home page.
Happy birthday, Don!