[SIGCIS-Members] Computer Science in Higher Education

Pierre Mounier mounier at msh-paris.fr
Fri Oct 5 04:07:25 PDT 2012

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

This is just to inform SIGCIS members, particularly those working on  
Computer Science in Higher Education, of a paper about to appear :

"Computer Science in French Universities: Early Entrants and Latecomers"

This paper stems from my book *, but goes further to define models of  
development in an international comparaison perspective.

With cordial salutations, looking forward to meet some of you in  
Pierre Mounier-Kuhn

CNRS & Université Paris-Sorbonne
* http://pups.paris-sorbonne.fr/pages/aff_livre.php?Id=838

Abstract - MOUNIER-KUHN Pierre, 2012, "Computer Science in French  
Universities: Early Entrants and Latecomers", Information & Culture: A  
Journal of History, vol. 47, n° 4.

How do new disciplines develop in certain universities, not in  
others ? What factors shape the geography of science ? The history of  
computer science in French higher education suggests a model to  
describe this development and differenciation process.

Computer science stemmed from local configurations associating a  
school of electrical engineering and a professor of numerical  
analysis. In the early 1950s, a few professors, who may be  
characterized as “science entrepreneurs”, created three-fold  
structures, associating courses in applied mathematics and  
programming, a computing facility and a research laboratory. This  
initiated a cumulative development process, attracting students,  
researchers, contracts, funding and powerful machines, and opening the  
field to novel applications or theoretical investigations. In other  
universities, these configurations were not completed – typically,  
they were limited to an assistant and a small computer, so that  
computing remained confined to technical training.

In the 1960s, the pioneers became the leaders of the new informatics  
field, hold power positions in learned societies and in science policy  
committees, and controlled the definition of computer science  
curricula. As the computing institutes they had created reached  
considerable size, they began to spin off their junior professors  
toward other universities, thus still increasing their « radiance ».  
These centers, like Grenoble, Nancy or Toulouse, remain major academic  
centers in the discipline today.

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