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George Forsythe Coins the Term "Computer Science"


In 1961 mathematician and founder of Stanford University's Computer Science department George E. Forsythe coined the term "computer science" in his paper "Engineering Students Must Learn both Computing and Mathematics", J. Eng. Educ. 52 (1961) 177-188, quotation from p. 177.

Of this Donald Knuth wrote, "In 1961 we find him using the term 'computer science' for the first time in his writing:

[Computers] are developing so rapidly that even computer scientists cannot keep up with them. It must be bewildering to most mathematicians and engineers...In spite of the diversity of the applications, the methods of attacking the difficult problems with computers show a great unity, and the name of Computer Sciences is being attached to the discipline as it emerges. It must be understood, however, that this is still a young field whose structure is still nebulous. The student will find a great many more problems than answers. 

"He [Forsythe] identified the "computer sciences" as the theory of programming, numerical analysis, data processing, and the design of computer systems, and observed that the latter three were better understood than the theory of programming, and more available in courses" (Knuth, "George Forsythe and the Development of Computer Science," Communications of the ACM, 15 (1972) 722).

George Forsythe's wife, Alexandra I. Forsythe authored the first textbook on computer science published by John Wiley & Sons in 1969. It was entitled Computer Science: A first course.

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