Aug 102002

The great computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra is dead of cancer at 72. He was probably best-known for his shortest-path algorithm and classic paper, “Goto Statement Considered Harmful,” but to Dijkstra computer science owes such concepts as structured programming, synchronization, semaphores, deadly embrace, guarded command, and many, many more. He once advised a researcher looking for a topic to “Do only what only you can do,” which is the best career advice I ever heard from anyone. At least read his obituary; you might also have a look at his collected papers. Many can be read by non-programmers with profit, such as this one, on the scientist’s relation to society.