I visited Edsger W. Dijkstra's archive at the UT again and found a link to an interesting blog post

Edsger W. Dijkstra (EWD) was a Dutch computer scientist. After finishing his PhD. in theoretical physics at Leiden University, he spent his whole life helping to shape what today we know as Computer Science. As a tangential note, EWD preferred the term Computing Science because the field of study is not the computer (hardware) but the computing those computers perform (software)[1]. Sadly, the world does not care about these nuances as he does.

I came across his (last) name when I learned the Dijkstra's Algorithm while training for competitive programming contests during my high-school years. This algorithm is simple and elegant. In mathematics, simplicity leads is a prerequisite for elegance, and a characteristic of beauty. This algorithm is like that tiny poem that captivates you even after reading it one-hundred times.

Prof. Dijkstra was a scientist that gained my admiration and respect as I got more familiar with his corpus of work. His contributions to the development of computing as a science are of paramount importance. Besides, his work as educator, both in academia and the industry, was also remarkable. Throughout the years, he maintained open debates with the rest of the scientific community about the foundational knowledge of this emerging field of study—some of these debates were hold by post mail. A few of his views were quite controversial at the time, but he was always willing to discuss and defend them, as the advancement of science is only possible through an open, honest and respectful debate of ideas.

The University of Texas, Austin, maintains a website with most of the letters Prof. Dijkstra wrote throughout the years. I go back to this archive from time to time and read (or re-read) some of his writings, learning something new each time.

Today, I went back to that website and found a link to a personal reflection written by Rogier F. van Vlissingen on “Dijkstra’s sense of what computer science and programming are and what they aren’t.” . This short post succinctly captures some of my thoughts about Prof. E.W. Dijkstra's legacy.. The only thing I disliked about this text is the use of the word “IT”, I think “Software” is slightly more accurate nowadays, but that is peccata minuta.


  1. When we talk about the computing machines, the hardware, the term Computing Engineering is used instead. I don't know why. Maybe we think about engineering as the field that deals with physical reality, whereas science is more about ideas and conceptual thinking—in particular Mathematics. Although algorithms are basically ideas, or more precisely, an ordered set of steps to solve a specific problem, a computer allows those solutions to manifest into the physical world and solve a “real” problem—or create new ones.

#Science #Software