[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of "Computer Science"

Janet Abbate abbate at vt.edu
Fri Jun 28 11:40:33 PDT 2013


That's an excellent question; I am also exploring this area. Most people seem to date the term to Louis Fein's 1959 article "The Role of the University in Computers, Data Processing, and Related Fields," which uses the plural "computer sciences." The term is also used in Philip Morse's 1960 "Report on a Conference of University Computing Center Directors," which describes actual computer science programs at universities. By 1962 you start to see advertisements using the term, which may indicate broad acceptance. For example:

1962 ad in American Scientist by Research Analysis Corporation (Bethesda, MD): “New Directions in Computer Science.” ... “RAC scientists, engineers, and computer analysts ... reach well beyond the existing body of knowledge in computer science. The results have been twofold—new capabilities to predict and control, and new contributions to computer science and science in general.” RAC “currently offers career appointments to physicists, engineers, mathematicians, economists, and computer scientists, with graduate degrees.”

This mainly applies to the US. I think "information science" or "informatics" may have been more common in Europe.

Fein, Louis. "The Role of the University in Computers, Data Processing, and Related Fields." Communications of the ACM 2, no. 9 (1959): 7-14.
Morse, Philip M. . "Report on a Conference of University Computing Center Directors (June 2-4 1960)." Commun. ACM 3, no. 10 (1960): 519-21.


Dr. Janet Abbate
Associate Professor 
Science & Technology in Society
Virginia Tech

On Jun 28, 2013, at 1:59 43PM, Martin Campbell-Kelly wrote:

> I’m trying to find when the term “computer science” came into general use. The term “software” seems to be quite accurately dated as appearing in 1960 in several contemporary publications, but I have found nothing similar for computer science.
> Martin
>> Martin Campbell-Kelly, Dept of Computer Science
> University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, U.K.
> voice: +44 24 7652 3193 fax: +44 24 7657 3024
> email: M.Campbell-Kelly at warwick.ac.uk
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