Edsger Wybe Dijkstra  

(2002)


Born  Rotterdam, Netherlands 
11 May 1930
Died  6 August 2002 Nuenen, Netherlands 
(aged 72)
Fields 
Computing science 
Institutions 
Mathematisch Centrum 
Doctoral advisor  Adriaan van Wijngaarden 
Doctoral students 
Nico Habermann 
Known for 
Dijkstra’s algorithm (singlesource shortest path problem) 
Influences 
Adriaan van Wijngaarden 
Influenced 
Tony Hoare[7] 
Notable awards 
Turing Award (1972) 
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.
Objectoriented programming is an exceptionally bad idea which could only have originated in California.
The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.
The lurking suspicion that something could be simplified is the world's richest source of rewarding challenges.
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.
The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense.
Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a factor that decides between success and failure.
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.
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.
Teaching to unsuspecting youngsters the effective use of formal methods is one of the joys of life because it is so extremely rewarding.
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
Don't compete with me: firstly, I have more experience, and secondly, I have chosen the weapons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence!
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
Many mathematicians derive part of their selfesteem by feeling themselves the proud heirs of a long tradition of rational thinking; I am afraid they idealize their cultural ancestors.
The ability of discerning high quality unavoidably implies the ability of identifying shortcomings.
Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure mathematicians.
I mentioned the noncompetitive 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.