[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of "Computer Science"

Ceruzzi, Paul CeruzziP at si.edu
Fri Jun 28 12:50:46 PDT 2013

I wrote about this years ago, in the Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 10/4 (1989), pp. 257-275.

Paul E. Ceruzzi
Chair, Division of Space History
National Air & Space Museum
MRC 311; PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

-----Original Message-----
From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On Behalf Of Janet Abbate
Sent: Friday, June 28, 2013 2:41 PM
To: Martin Campbell-Kelly
Cc: members at sigcis.org; David Brailsford
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Origin of "Computer Science"


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

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