Donald Knuth

From Citizendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
This editable Main Article is under development and subject to a disclaimer.

Donald Ervin Knuth, born on January 10, 1938, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is an acclaimed computer scientist, mathematician, and professor emeritus at Stanford University. As the author of the widely-cited, multi-volume The Art of Computer Programming [1], Knuth contributed significantly to the analysis of algorithms. He is also known for having created the TeX typesetting system and of the METAFONT font design system, and pioneering the concept of literate programming. Professor Knuth has accumulated a number of honors and awards.

Academic achievements

In 1960, Knuth simultaneously earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree in mathematics from the Case Institute of Technology (now part of Case Western Reserve University). In 1963, he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology, where he became a professor and began work on The Art of Computer Programming, originally planned as a seven-volume series.

In 1968, he joined the faculty of Stanford University and published the first volume of The Art of Computer Programming. In 1976, after producing the third volume of The Art of Computer Programming, Knuth created the influential TeX and METAFONT tools as a result of his frustration with the electronic publishing tools used to provide input to photo-typesetters. In 1990, Stanford awarded Knuth the singular academic title of Professor of the Art of Computer Programming, which was revised to Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming upon his 1992 retirement from teaching at Stanford University. Knuth continued work on The Art of Computer Programming. By 2004, revised versions of the first three volumes had been re-issued, and Knuth continued working on volume four, excerpts of which are released periodically on his website.

Since 1990, Knuth has declined to use electronic mail, declaring it to be too inefficient and time-consuming. Instead, a secretary monitors an email account on his behalf. He corresponds in "batch mode", such as one day every three months, to be sent by postal mail.[2] In recent years, Knuth has given informal lectures a few times a year at Stanford University, which he calls Computer Musings. He is also a visiting professor at the Oxford University Computing Laboratory in the United Kingdom.

Honors and Awards

  1. In 1971, Knuth was the first recipient of the Grace Murray Hopper Award[3] from the ACM[4].
  2. In 1974, Knuth received the Turing Award[3] from the ACM.
  3. In 1979, Knuth won a National Medal of Science[5], given annually since 1959 as a Presidential Award to individuals deserving special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge.
  4. In 1992, Knuth became an associate[6] of the French Academy of Sciences[7].
  5. In 1995, Knuth received the John von Neumann Medal[8] from the IEEE, which is given for outstanding achievements in computer-related science and technology.
  6. In 1996, Knuth was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize[9], Japan’s highest private award for lifetime achievement.
  7. In 2003, Knuth was elected a foreign member[10] of Britain's The Royal Society[11].


Knuth is married to Jill Knuth[12], who published a book on liturgy titled Banner without Words, published by Resource Publications in 1986. They have two children. Knuth also loves to play the organ and has a two-story high pipe organ installed in his home[13]. He is a member of Theta Chi fraternity.

In addition to his writings on computer science, Knuth is also the author of 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated (1991), ISBN 0-89579-252-4, in which he attempts to examine the Bible by a process of stratified random sampling, namely an analysis of chapter 3, verse 16 of each book. Each verse is accompanied by a rendering in calligraphic art, contributed by a group of calligraphers under the leadership of Hermann Zapf.


  1. Donald Knuth. "The Art of Computer Programming" (an overview of each volume). Retrieved on 2007-09-25.
  2. Donald Knuth. Email (let's drop the hyphen). Retrieved on 2007-09-30.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Awards given by the ACM. (Association for Computing Machinery). Retrieved on 2007-09-25.
  4. Association for Computing Machinery. on 2007-09-25.
  5. National Medal of Science recipients. (National Science Foundation). Retrieved on 2007-09-25.
  6. French Academy of Sciences. on 2007-09-25.
  7. "Donald Knuth in French Academy of Sciences". (Stanford University). Retrieved on 2007-09-25.
  8. IEEE John von Neumann medal. (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.). Retrieved on 2007-09-25.
  9. Donald Knuth wins Kyoto Prize. (Stanford University). Retrieved on 2007-09-25.
  10. List of Fellows and Foreign Members of The Royal Society. on 2007-09-25.
  11. The Royal Society. on 2007-09-25.
  12. Early picture
  13. The Pipe Organ of Don and Jill Knuth. Donald Knuth on his home page at Stanford University. Retrieved on 2007-09-25.