- Pioneers of Computer Science in the History of Ideas
- No.25, p.1-9
Usually seven thinkers are mentioned as pioneers of computer science. They are Blaise Pascal, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Charles Babbage, Norbert Wiener, Johann von Neumann, Alan Mathison Turing and Claude E. Shannon. The author intends to reconsider their thoughts on calculating machine from the point of view of the history of ideas. Curiously enough most of them have in common some ambience of heterodoxy.
Pascal, first fabricator of existent calculator, came near to being condemned with his friends of Port Royal, though he saw the greatness of God in the infinity of His Will which any machine cannot imitate. Leibniz confessed his debt to Kabbalah mysticism in which originated his mathesis universalis. He was in need to have God as clock maker who adjusts the mutually independent worlds of monads. Babbage influenced his contemporary naturalist Robert Chambers through his concept of calculating machine. Thus according to Chambers God is a kind of software engineer.
In this century Wiener insisted in his book “God and Golem Inc” that scientist must try even religiously prohibited ideas. Von Neumann, converted catholic, compared machine with human brain through his late years and proposed a new concept of machine more akin to brain, of so-called non-von Neumann type. Turing was more modest in his intention and made clear the notion of computability by his ‘Turing machin’. Shannon, starting his career by his famous paper on switching circuit, succeeded to break the fresh ground of information science with his probabilistic notion of information amount. Traditionally the probability is on a diverted line of thought from the orthodox science directed to certainty.