Niels Henrik Abel was a Norwegian mathematician who among many other beautiful things proved the impossibility of solving the quintic equation in radicals. He was one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, although he lived only 27 years (born 1802, died 1829). People couldn’t understand how he was able to mature in mathematics while being so young. In one of his notebooks a clue was found. He writes: “It seems to me that if one wants to progress in mathematics one should study the masters and not their pupils.”
The great mathematician Laplace said: “Read Euler, Read Euler. He is the master of us all.”
Another prominent mathematician, Dirichlet, had always Gauss’ book Disquisitiones Arithmeticae with him. He read it whenever he had some free time. He also read it before going to sleep and at night he would place the book under his pillow in the hope that the next morning’s reading would suddenly make sense.
The advice to study the masters is of course true not just for mathematics, but for any subject, including programming. In this post I will collect links to great minds in the programming area. If you have personally been influenced by a great book, course, video, etc., please comment.
- Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
These videos are the first seriuos discussion about programming as a science instead of just a craft.
- Alan Kay on Programming and Scaling.
- Alan Kay’s talk on Vannevar Bush Symposium.
In 1984 Alan Kay was keynote speaker at a conference in Frankfurt. His speech turn my life around. I started to work with and evangelize OOP, multimedia and Internet.
- Knuth Computer Musings
Knuth’s book are as much, if not more, on Mathematics than on computer science. Many thousands of pages and not light reading.
A joke which probably isn’t true. Jobs meets Knuth at a conference and says. “How nice to meet you, I’ve read all your books”. “You’re full of shit” Knuth replies.
- Ted Nelson
Ted Nelson was one of the computer pioneers, not by actually making something, but by having deep ideas of what is possible to make. But he was and is certainly an original person, and you can’t avoid loving him for his ideas and person.
- Richard Hamming
Many years ago I taught radio communication at the University level. One of the big names was Richard Hamming and I loved his books. Turns out there is a YouTube video of him at the later years of his life, where he is spreading the wisdom he gathered during his life. For instance:
- “With one life to live, you ought to do more than just to get by”.
- “The important thing is not working hardest. Working on the right problem at the right time is the only thing that matters.The only thing”.
- “The struggle for excellence, is worth the struggle. It will define who you are.”
- “A drunken sailor will after n steps move the distance square root of n. But a person who has a goal, will move the distance n after n steps. That’s why it is so important to have a goal”.
- Introduction to the Theory of Computation
If you want to know about computer theory here is a nice online course.
Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, by Abelson and Sussman
Design Patterns, by Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides
C Programming Language, by Kernighan and Ritchie
We learn most when we have to invent, Piaget.