Edsger Dijkstra Quotes

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Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

Born (1930-05-11)11 May 1930
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Died 6 August 2002(2002-08-06) (aged 72)
Nuenen, Netherlands

Computing science
Theoretical computer science


Mathematisch Centrum
Eindhoven University of Technology
Burroughs Corporation
The University of Texas at Austin

Doctoral advisor Adriaan van Wijngaarden
Doctoral students

Nico Habermann
Jan van de Snepscheut

Known for

Dijkstra’s algorithm (single-source shortest path problem)
DJP algorithm (minimum spanning tree problem)
First implementation of ALGOL 60 compiler
Structured analysis
Structured programming
Layered approach to operating system design
THE multiprogramming system
Concept of levels of abstraction[1][2]
Concept of layered structure in software architecture (layered architecture)
Concept of cooperating sequential processes[3]
Concept of program families[4]
Multithreaded programming
Concurrent programming
Concurrent algorithms
Principles of distributed computing
Distributed algorithms
Synchronization primitive
Mutual exclusion
Critical section
Generalization of Dekker’s algorithm
Tri-color marking algorithm
Call stack
Fault-tolerant systems
Self-stabilizing distributed systems
Resource starvation
Deadly embrace
Deadlock prevention algorithms
Shunting-yard algorithm
Banker’s algorithm
Dining philosophers problem
Sleeping barber problem
Producer–consumer problem (bounded buffer problem)
Dutch national flag problem
Predicate transformer semantics
Guarded Command Language
Weakest precondition calculus
Unbounded nondeterminism
Dijkstra-Scholten algorithm
Separation of concerns
Program verification
Program derivation
Software crisis[5]
Software architecture[6]


Adriaan van Wijngaarden


Tony Hoare[7]
Niklaus Wirth[8][9]
Per Brinch Hansen[10]
Leslie Lamport[11][12]
David Gries
David Parnas
Shlomi Dolev
Alexander Stepanov[13]

Notable awards

Turing Award (1972)
ACM Fellow (1994)
Dijkstra Prize (2002)

About the use of language: it is impossible to sharpen a pencil with a blunt axe. It is equally vain to try to do it with ten blunt axes instead.
Edsger Dijkstra
Object-oriented programming is an exceptionally bad idea which could only have originated in California.
Edsger Dijkstra
The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.
Edsger Dijkstra
The lurking suspicion that something could be simplified is the world's richest source of rewarding challenges.
Edsger Dijkstra
APL is a mistake, carried through to perfection. It is the language of the future for the programming techniques of the past: it creates a new generation of coding bums.
Edsger Dijkstra
Perfecting oneself is as much unlearning as it is learning.
The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense.
Edsger Dijkstra
Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a factor that decides between success and failure.
Edsger Dijkstra
Why has elegance found so little following? That is the reality of it. Elegance has the disadvantage, if that's what it is, that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it.
Edsger Dijkstra
The students that, like the wild animal being prepared for its tricks in the circus called 'life', expects only training as sketched above, will be severely disappointed: by his standards he will learn next to nothing.
Edsger Dijkstra
Teaching to unsuspecting youngsters the effective use of formal methods is one of the joys of life because it is so extremely rewarding.
Edsger Dijkstra
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
Edsger Dijkstra
Don't compete with me: firstly, I have more experience, and secondly, I have chosen the weapons.
Edsger Dijkstra
Mathematicians are like managers - they want improvement without change.
If 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself: 'Dijkstra would not have liked this', well that would be enough immortality for me.
Edsger Dijkstra
There should be no such thing as boring mathematics.
The traditional mathematician recognizes and appreciates mathematical elegance when he sees it. I propose to go one step further, and to consider elegance an essential ingredient of mathematics: if it is clumsy, it is not mathematics.
Edsger Dijkstra
The competent programmer is fully aware of the limited size of his own skull. He therefore approaches his task with full humility, and avoids clever tricks like the plague.
Edsger Dijkstra
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability.
It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.
Edsger Dijkstra
Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence!
Edsger Dijkstra
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
Edsger Dijkstra
Aim for brevity while avoiding jargon.
Many mathematicians derive part of their self-esteem by feeling themselves the proud heirs of a long tradition of rational thinking; I am afraid they idealize their cultural ancestors.
Edsger Dijkstra
The ability of discerning high quality unavoidably implies the ability of identifying shortcomings.
Edsger Dijkstra
Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure mathematicians.
Edsger Dijkstra
I mentioned the non-competitive spirit explicitly, because these days, excellence is a fashionable concept. But excellence is a competitive notion, and that is not what we are heading for: we are heading for perfection.
Edsger Dijkstra