Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Donald Knuth!

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:

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!


Anonymous said...

My mom, like Donald Knuth, was born in Milwaukee. I believe they went to the same Lutheran church, where my grandfather was the pastor. They lived close enough together, and my mom was a little more than a decade older, so she babysat Donald from time to time. She kept in touch with his family over the years.

A while back, for one of her birthdays, I bought a copy of '3:16'. Dr. Knuth was kind enough to sign and personalize it for my mom as a gift.

As busy and renowned as the man is, he still has a lot of heart - and a good memory!

Erdos56 said...

Happy birthday, indeed. Many fond memories of Art of... and LaTeX through the years, but here is my weirdest memory: I used the Art Of... FFT implementation one time as the basis for a "tone rider" that worked in real-time on a 386 machine. Now, a tone rider takes ambient sounds and finds the fundamental and overtones. You can then do things like trigger other sounds based on the pitch class. The cool thing about this system is that it was recursive, because during stage performances, the new triggered tones would feed back and create cascades of additional tones depending on damping factors.

Anyway, I thought I found a problem with the Art of... FFT implementation, but it turned out to be a puzzling compiler optimization issue, so I never sent my (in)correction.

Erdos56 said...

Apologies, Jeffrey, I think I recalled incorrectly: that was Numerical Recipes, not AOCP! Please ignore post...

Anonymous said...

I recently attended another of Dr. Knuth's musings on sideways heaps, down at Stanford.

His genius and hard work are apparent as ever, but more importantly, his warmth and compassion shine bright.

Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Don Knuth would not understand the commotion. He would be thinking he is only 46 years old. 0x46.

Anonymous said...

Hey steve, awesome story you posted there. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Shallit:

Thanks for your perfect idea for a surprise gift, which has spawned so many interesting posts and comments on the blogosphere!

aravind srinivasan

Anonymous said...

I'd like to say Happy Birthday to Donald Knuth. I don't know if people know the Donald is also a lettering artist or a calligrapher. I saw his math fonts and type at Zapfest. He also had a calligraphic art piece on exhibition He collaborated with Hermann Zapf aka 'the god of calligraphy and typography' on a project.
I met him (May 2007) at San Francisco Antiquarian BookFair and he was making 'small talk' to me ..and I was embarrased I forget his name, and then he said "you know professor at Stanford...Don.."
I stood up from my chair, and my food on the plate, I think flew all over the place, "I said, the Genius!!!!". He was very gracious and when I told him I had a solo exhibit, he teasingly asked for my autograph, because he said "Art is more difficult than math"..I asked for his autograph because my Java professor didnt' believe I know. He's a swell guy, friendly and an achiever...I hope the Donald, or Don will keep on writing. He said he doesn't answer any email but you can write him at Stanford where he gets his mail.
It was a thrill,the Father of Computer Science asking for my autograph!

Elizabeth N

Unknown said...

A belated well-wish for Donald Knuth...but then my interest is spiked by Douglas Hofstadter's analysis of Knuth's metafonts in Metamagical Themas...Well...I thougt both missed out on a few points in the best efforts substantiate their points of A-ness a definite...or only a scalar function of our perceptibility...the later is true for our perceptibility cannot visualize an image of any scale without an opitmal trace of that image having been experienced means all alphabets are arbitrary...Plato's essence is questionable for every symbolic rendering is only a functional approximation of our experience...thank you...many more years of happy life to Donald Knuth...bye!

Unknown said...

awesome happy birthday greetings to Donald Knuth