Donald Knuth

Donald Ervin "Don" Knuth [ kənu ː θ ]; ( Born January 10, 1938 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is an American computer scientist, professor emeritus at Stanford University, author of the standard work The Art of Computer Programming and forefather of the typesetting system TeX.


Knuth is the son of a teacher. He attended Milwaukee Lutheran High School and began his studies in physics at the California Institute of Technology in September 1956 for two reasons he suggested from his second year, however, the road to mathematics. Firstly, it solved a problem of his mathematics professors, giving him a 1, 0 earned as a note, on the other hand, he found little pleasure in the physical placements.

He received a bachelor's and a master's degree in 1960 from Case Western Reserve University. In 1963 he received his Ph.D. the California Institute of Technology at Marshall Hall, where he then also after PhD Assistant Professor and Associate Professor in 1966 and eventually became a professor. He became professor of computer science at Stanford University in 1968. From 1977 he was there Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science and from 1990 Professor of the Art of Computer Programming. Since 1993 he is Professor Emeritus.

1960 to 1968 he was a consultant to the Burroughs Corporation, where he wrote early compiler among others. In 1968/69 he was Staff Mathematician in the Communication Research Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses.

2006 Knuth learned that he had been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer. He underwent surgery in December of the year, followed by a slight radiation therapy as a precautionary measure. In his video autobiography he called the forecast pretty good.

He is married to Nancy Jill Carter since 1961 and has a son and a daughter.


In 1964 he received 60 international fame through his design proposal of an Input / Output system for the programming language Algol. This system has been implemented in most Algol -60 systems as a component.

Especially for his multi-volume work The Art of Computer Programming, where he continues to work, he created with TeX and METAFONT computer programs that allow printable text set and are used especially in mathematics and academia.

He coined the term literate programming - the view that computer programs with the same care to write as a literary text and to combine source code and software documentation.

In this sense, he published books in which the complete source code of TeX and METAFONT in sections is printed together with explanatory notes for the design and operation of the algorithms (of course using these programs ). The also published user manuals and documentation are not only operating instructions for the users of these programs ("how do I assign TeX on possible word separations go? " ), But also - in more technical language and a smaller font size - ( "how does the word separation algorithm " ) detailed information on the functioning. They also include therefore the specification of these programs.

In addition to Knuth's efforts to a pleasing aesthetic appearance at the text layout him Correctness is a prime concern. Therefore, he assigns each newly found error in his books or programs offering a reward of a " hexadecimal dollar " worth $ 2.56 ( hexadecimal 100 to 256 decimal). Since Knuth checks no longer holds for sure, the coveted recognition checks are issued as personal deposits with the fictitious Bank of San Serriffe since 2008. Very few of these checks have been previously redeemed.

1974 he described and popularized in his book Surreal Numbers: How Two Ex - Students Turned on to Pure Mathematics and Found Total Happiness which featured John Horton Conway surreal numbers.

His penchant for beautiful printed texts he combined with his theological interests (he is Lutheran ) 3:16 in the project when he in 1985, based on a key point of the Bible ( John 3:16), from each book of the Bible Chapter 3, v. 16 studied and its own English translation of it from different artists each caused to be written and published this calligraphy with his reflections on the verses.

On 1 January 1990 Knuth announced that from now on not to use e -mail more, in order to concentrate on his work.

Since 1992, Knuth is retired in order to devote himself exclusively to the completion of The Art of Computer Programming. Since February 2011 there is tape 4A, deals with combinatorics. Volume 4B and 4C are to follow, Volume 5 (of seven planned ) he hopes to finish by 2020.

In the fall of 1999 he gave at MIT as part of a multi-year series of lectures of prominent scholars on the topic of "God and Computers" six lectures on cross-connections between computer science and religion from his personal point of view, and took part in a final panel discussion. Their transcripts were published in his book Things a computer scientist rarely talks about.

He repeatedly criticized in recent times publicly the granting of software patents in the United States and engaged in the discussion of freer access to publications in scientific journals.

Knuth has developed a new processor architecture with an associated assembler in the course of his further research for The Art of Computer Programming, and will publish them in a future edition of the first volume ( the description is already a pre-release version before ). These 64 -bit architecture ( MMIX ) supports a Unix-like operating system ( NNIX called ), on the turn of the TeX interpreter would be feasible. Thus were The Art of Computer Programming and Computers and Typesetting in combination with free software, a fully self-documenting system consisting of hardware and software.

The Art of Computer Programming also includes many detailed historical notes mathematics; in addition he also wrote some essays on the history of mathematics.

In addition, Knuth is also known for his scientific jokes, so he wrote an article The Complexity of Songs ( "On the complexity of Songs" ) and designed the potrzebie unit system, in which the thickness of 26 MAD magazine serves as an elementary unit of length. This was also his first release, in MAD magazine (issue 33) of 1957.


He is much honorary doctorates; 25 honorary doctorates from 1980 to 2005 he was awarded, among others, the ETH Zurich ( 2005) and the University of Tübingen ( 2001).

In addition, Knuth is the namesake for the annual award since 1997 Knuth Prize. The asteroid 21656 Knuth is named after him.

He was a foreign member of the Academie des Sciences and in 2008 the Russian Academy of Sciences, 1973, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1975 National Academy of Sciences, in 2003 foreign member of the Royal Society, 1982 Honorary Member of the IEEE, a Fellow of the Association for Computing 1992 Machinery ( ACM) and 1981 of the National Academy of Engineering. He is an associate member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences. He is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.


  • Donald E. Knuth: Island of numbers. A number theoretic Genesis dialog. Vieweg and Teubner, Braunschweig, 1979 ( Original title: Surreal Numbers How two ex - students turned on to pure mathematics and found total happiness A mathematical novelette. . ), ISBN 3-528-08403-0.
  • TEX and METAFONT. New directions in typesetting. Addison -Wesley, Reading ( MA ) 1979, ISBN 0-932376-02-9.
  • 3:16. Bible texts illuminated. AR Editions, Madison (Wis. ), 1991, ISBN 0-89579-252-4.
  • Literate Programming. Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford (CA), 1992, ISBN 0-937073-80-6.
  • With RL Graham and O. Patashnik: Concrete Mathematics. 2nd edition, Addison -Wesley, Reading ( MA) 1994, ISBN 0-201-55802-5
  • The Art of Computer Programming. Vol 1: Fundamental Algorithms. 3rd edition. Addison -Wesley, Reading, MA 1997, ISBN 0-201-89683-4.
  • The Art of Computer Programming. Volume 1, Fascicle 1: MMIX - A RISC Computer for the New Millennium. 1st edition. Addison -Wesley, Upper Saddle River, NJ 2005, ISBN 0-201-85392-2.
  • The Art of Computer Programming. Vol 2: Seminumerical Algorithms. 3rd edition. Addison -Wesley, Reading, MA 1997, ISBN 0-201-89684-2.
  • The Art of Computer Programming. Vol 3: Sorting and Searching. 2nd edition. Addison -Wesley, Reading, MA 1998, ISBN 0-201-89685-0.
  • The Art of Computer Programming. Vol 4A: Combinatorial Algorithms, Part 1, 1st Edition. Addison -Wesley, Upper Saddle River, NJ 2011, ISBN 0-201-03804-8.
  • MMIXware. A RISC computer for the third millennium. Springer, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 3-540-66938-8.
  • Arithmetic. Springer, Berlin, 2001, ISBN 3-540-66745-8.
  • Daniel H. Greene Mathematics for the analysis of algorithms, Birkhauser 2007 ( first 1981)
  • The Stanford Graph Base: a platform for combinatorial computing, ACM Press, Addison -Wesley 1993
  • METAFONT. The Program, Addison -Wesley 1986
  • The TEXbook, Addison -Wesley 1984
  • Digital Typography, CLSI Publications 1999 ( CLSI = Center for the Study of Language and Information )
  • Computer Modern Typefaces, Addison -Wesley 1986
  • With Silvio Levy The CWEB system of structured documentation: version 3.0, Addison -Wesley 1994
  • Axioms and Hulls, Springer Verlag 1992
  • Selected Papers on Computer Science, Cambridge University Press 1996
  • Selected Papers on Computer Languages ​​, Stanford CLSI 2003
  • Selected Papers on Design of algorithms, Stanford, CLSI 2010
  • Selected papers on analysis of algorithms, Stanford, CLSI 2000
  • Selected Papers on fun and games, Stanford, CLSI 2010
  • Selected Papers on discrete mathematics, Stanford, CLSI 2003
  • Things a computer scientist rarely talks about, Stanford, CLSI 2001