<- Dahl-Studies and early careers


Studies and early careers


When Dahl (1949, University of Oslo), Dijkstra (1948, University of Leiden) and Nygaard (1945, University of Oslo) began their studies at university, computing science did not exist as a discipline. They all began studying natural sciences (Dahl and Nygaard mathematics, Dijkstra theoretical physics). Dahl’s decision was obvious because he showed great talents in mathematics while Nygaard’s choice was based on interest and obviously on his contacts with J. Garwick. Dijkstra’s decision was a bit more difficult. When Dijkstra started studying at the University of Leiden, he had to choose between theoretical physics and mathematics. “I decided that if I didn’t study physics at the university, I would never do it. I felt that mathematics would look after itself” is how he described his decision in (Shasha, 1995). Actually, he studied mathematics and physics during the first few years and theoretical physics later on (Dijkstra, 1993).
Referring to his years at university, Dijkstra wrote:


“On the whole I enjoyed the years at the university very much. We were very poor, worked very hard, never slept enough and often did not eat enough but life was incredibly exciting.” (Dijkstra, 1993) He was a diligent student and so his father offered him a reward that was to influence his future career: “My father, who was subscriber to ‘Nature’, had seen the announcement of a three-week course in Cambridge on programming for an electronic computer (for the EDSAC, to be precise), and when I had passed the midway exam before the end of the third year – which was relatively early – he offered me by way of reward the opportunity to attend that course. I thought it a good idea, because I intended to become an excellent theoretical physicist and I felt that in my effort to reach that goal, the ability to use an electronic computer might come in handy.” (Dijkstra, 1993) At that time the first computers were being used to solve large numerical problems in the natural sciences.


[Source: People behind Informatics, Laszlo Böszörmenyi and Stefan Podlipnig]


<- Dahl-Studies and early careers

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