# Donald Knuth celebrates his programming bible

Fifty years ago, Donald Knuth wrote a seminal text that addresses many kinds of programming algorithms and their analysis. His unfinished magnum opus on computer programming has made him a highly respected figure in the field.

Donald Knuth: ‘The Art of Computer Programming’

DJC

Donald E. Knuth is well known for his pioneering work on algorithms and computer programming techniques. He is also known for his invention of the TEX and METAFONT systems for computer typesetting, plus his prolific and influential writing. He is currently Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University. It is this honorific title for which Knuth is best known — thanks to his book called

*The Art of Computer Programming*, which he began in 1962.

The text

*The Art of Computer Programming* was 'published' in 1968, although according to Donald Knuth the book remains incomplete. Over time

the text has expanded to four volumes spanning 3168 pages.

The four volumes of T

*he Art of Computer Programming* are:

Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms,
Volume 2: Seminumerical Algorithms,
Volume 3: Sorting and Searching,
Volume 4A: Combinatorial Algorithm.s

The text has remained in print ever since, and has received plaudits from influential people in the technology field, such as Bill Gates

who said: "If you think you’re a really good programmer… read [Knuth’s]

*Art of Computer Programming*… You should definitely send me a résumé if you can read the whole thing."

Donald Ervin Knuth, an American computer scientist, mathematician, and professor emeritus at Stanford University.

Jacob Appelbaum (CC BY-SA 2.5)

The book includes a comprehensive survey of classical computer techniques for sorting and searching, and covers the treatment of data structures across large and small databases and internal and external memories. The text contains a selection of carefully checked computer methods, with a quantitative analysis of their efficiency.

As to why 'art' appeals in the title, this is reflected in the first paragraph of the preface where Knuth calls programming: “an aesthetic experience much like composing poetry or painting.”

Due to the success of the book, Knuth was awarded

the 1974 Turing Award "for his major contributions to the analysis of algorithms […], and in particular for his contributions to the 'art of computer programming'".

The

New York Times has run a special feature on Knuth to mark the anniversary of the text and Knuth's work. The article acknowledges that much of the work on algorithms paved the way of many of the digital applications of today.

In the article, Dr. Peter Norvig, director of research at Google Inc., is quoted as saying: "

*The Art of Computer Programming*” is the Bible of its field. “Like an actual bible, it is long and comprehensive; no other book is as comprehensive... Knuth made it clear that the system could actually be understood all the way down to the machine code level."

Among Knuth's other works is Surreal Numbers, a mathematical novelette which seeks to show the development of the mathematics, and he is a promoter of 'recreational mathematics' - mathematics carried out for recreation (entertainment) rather than as a strictly research and application-based professional activity. This all adds up to a remarkable individual.