[SIGCIS-Members] Mahoney's "Histories of Computing" now available

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Wed May 11 15:15:59 PDT 2011

Hello everyone,

Earlier this week I received a full set of authors copies of "Histories of
Computing," the edited works of Michael S. Mahoney on the history of
computing. These were shipped from the Trilateral warehouse, which handles
Harvard distribution, so I assume the book can now be ordered. It's priced
at $50, which is a little high for an impulse buy but still much more
reasonable than the library only pricing you tend to see from Springer or
Routledge. I'll also be sure to set aside one or two copies for the SIGCIS
book auction in Cleveland later this year.

Book details at: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?recid=31145  
Buy discounted at:
Flier: http://www.tomandmaria.com/tom/Mahoney/MahoneyFlier.pdf  

If you didn't know Mahoney, who died in 2008, you can learn more about him
on his website http://www.princeton.edu/~hos/Mahoney/ and on his Princeton
University tribute page. https://blogs.princeton.edu/mahoney/. An Eloge from
two of his students is reprinted in the book but is also online:

Fate moves in mysterious ways - when I first met Mike as a graduate student
at Penn in the mid-1990s his book on the history of theoretical computer
science was expected to appear soon, following his earlier "The Mathematical
Career of Pierre de Fermat, 1601-1665."  I little suspected that fifteen
years later I would find myself charged with pulling together his second
book for publication (or indeed that it would be my own first book.) I'm
particularly grateful to Bill Aspray, who was the initial editor, for
bringing me on board the project.

While not the groundbreaking monograph we all hoped Mike would eventually
finish, "Histories of Computing" is a nicely produced hardcover volume,
including thirteen of Mahoney's papers on the topic from his widely cited
1988 "The History of Computing in the History of Technology" all the way
through to his 2010 paper "The Structures of Computation and the
Mathematical Structure of Nature." The book is named after my personal
favorite, his "The Histories of Computing(s)" which should be required
reading any graduate student developing an interest in the field. I grouped
the papers into three sections focused on historiography, software
engineering, and theoretical computer science. As Mahoney tended to rework
material from older papers into new ones it took some editing to strike and
appropriate balance between redundancy and completeness, and several papers
are represented by extracts.

There's also a reasonably hefty historiographic introduction, where I try to
summarize the main strands of Mahoney's work, tie together themes that unite
those three areas, and put his work in context. During the project I
developed a new appreciation for the coherence of his thought across what
had initially struck me as a rather eclectic set of topics, and as some of
his best papers were published in journals and volumes outside the regular
orbit of historians of computing there is real value in seeing the full
scope of his work in one place. (Especially as the papers have now been
removed from his personal website). His work will remain relevant for a long
time to come.

We're also hoping to pass the word on to any of his colleagues who knew him
from Princeton, history of mathematics, or history of early modern science
who might be interested in learning about his other work.

My editorial honorarium has been donated directly to the SIGCIS Mahoney
Fund, http://www.sigcis.org/mahoney. We now have more than $9,000 in the
fund, which will be used primarily to provide ongoing funding in Mike's name
for graduate student presenters at the SIGCIS workshop.

Best wishes,

Tom Haigh

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