First in the Field: Breaking Ground in Computer Science at Purdue University

First in the Field: Breaking Ground in Computer Science at Purdue University (ePDF)

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 First in the Field: Breaking Ground in Computer Science at Purdue University
Purdue University Press

Book Description

First in the Field: Breaking Ground in Computer Science at Purdue Universitychronicles the history and development of the first computer science department established at a university in the United States. The backdrop for this groundbreaking academic achievement is Purdue in the 1950s when mathematicians, statisticians, engineers, and scientists from various departments were searching for faster and more efficient ways to conduct their research. These were fertile times, as recognized by Purdue’s President Frederick L. Hovde, whose support of what was to become the first “university-centered” computer center in America laid the foundation for the nation’s first department of computer science.

The book pulls together strands of the story from previously unpublished texts and photographs, as well as published articles and interviews, to provide the first complete historical account of the genesis of the Department of Computer Sciences at Purdue, and its continued growth up to the present. It is a fascinating story with parallels to the “space race,” involving many players, some of whose contributions have gone previously unacknowledged in the heat of the race. Filled with unique historical anecdotes detailing the challenges of legitimizing the new academic field, these stories bring to life the strong convictions of a group of pioneering thinkers that continue to resonate for us today. The raw determination required to transform a computing laboratory that offered early programming courses into a full-fledged computer center and a department offering degrees in computer science characterizes this story of interest to anyone intrigued by the pathways creativity takes in scientific endeavors. It is a story that matters because it was, and is, an ongoing achievement of leadership in education and research in a field that has totally revolutionized our society.

About the Author(s):

Robin Lea Pyle is the daughter of Dr. L. Duane Pyle, a charter faculty member of Purdue University’s Department of Computer Sciences, the assistant director of Purdue’s Computer Sciences Center in 1961‒1962, the assistant head of Purdue’s department from 1965‒1969, and a professor of computer science at the University of Houston from 1971‒1993. Having worked as a computer programmer at a number of academic computer centers, Robin Pyle assisted her father on many occasions, including an NSF-supported project at Stanford University involving remote use of supercomputers for his research. Educated at Princeton University (AB), the University of Oregon (MA), and the Ohio State University (MFA), Pyle is a playwright and a professional performer whose extensive activities in theater and dance have included choreographic work with “Bubblewoman,” a three-dimensional animated figure controlled through a dance notation system, created by Dr. Norman Badler at the University of Pennsylvania.