Computer Musings by Professor Donald E. Knuth
View Computer Musings, lectures given by Donald E. Knuth, professor emeritus in computer science at Stanford University. The Stanford Center for Professional Development has digitized more than one hundred tapes of Knuth's musings, lectures, and selected classes and posted them online. These archived tapes resonate with not only his thoughts, but with insights from students, audience members, and other luminaries in mathematics and computer science. They are available to the public free of charge.
About Professor Knuth
Photo by Timothy Archibald
"I have always liked the concept of universities as they were in Ancient Greece, where folks who had something cool to say would just come and say it. It wasn't about recognition; the impetus was the thought that you were resonating with ideas."
Knuth's impact is far-reaching. Literate programming, attributed to Knuth, essentially holds that computer programs should be developed with an eye toward human comprehension more than computer readability. He maintains that the very act of communicating one's work clearly to other people will improve the work itself.
Knuth's programming texts are considered classics. In 1999 American Scientist named The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-3 among the best twelve scientific monographs of the century. The TeX system for document preparation, which Knuth developed during the late 1970s and early 1980s, is still used to produce most of the world's scientific literature in physics and mathematics.
While acknowledging his contributions to the field, Knuth comments only that "some people seem to be interested in what I have to say."
"These lectures I've given have been inspired and shaped by the questions and responses of the audiences to whom I spoke, and I want to keep them alive," he explains. "We've got these tapes and the world is going digital; SCPD has the talent and expertise to convert them. I feel that archiving is important. I've learned from archived lectures and classes myself, so I think others can learn from these."
To view Knuth's lectures, please set up your computer according to the technical requirements for viewing videos. Click on any of the group titles below to view available lectures.
Donald Knuth, Founding Artist of Computer Science, NPR interview by David Kestenbaum, Morning Edition, March 14, 2005
- Happy Birthday, Donald Knuth! Jeffrey Shallit
- Good Math, Bad Math : The Genius of Donald Knuth: Typesetting with Boxes and Glue, Mark Chu-Carroll
- For God So Loved the World... Doron Zeilberger
- 11011110: Analyzing Algorithm X, David Eppstein
- Volume 4 is already written (in our hearts), Scott Aaronson
- Don Knuth is 70, Luca Trevisan
- Today is Knuth's 70th birthday!! Bill Gasarch
- Happy Birthday, Don Knuth ! Suresh Venkatasubramanian
- Donald Knuth and Me, Jeffrey Shallit
A sampling of musings includes:
- Finding all spanning trees (December 16, 2003)
- The Joy of Asymptotics (May 30, 2000)
- Dancing Links (February 22, 2000)
- MMIX: A RISC Computer for the New Millennium (February 9, 1999)
- Constructing Bubblesort at Random: One-Dimensional Particle Physics (October 27, 1998)
- Fast Input/Output with Many Disks, Using a Magic Trick (January 20, 1998)
Chronological Reverse chronological
The "Aha" Sessions (1985)
"This was an experimental project where we'd have three or four cameras in a basement studio and we would film classes of about an hour," says Knuth. "We got a bunch of our brightest students and gave them extremely difficult problems. You could literally see the 'Aha' taking place. People can watch the problem-solving process as it occurred."
Over 25 hours of these sessions are available for viewing. Notes from these problem sessions were published as A Programming and Problem-Solving Seminar, Stanford Technical Report No. STAN-CS-85-1055.
Mathematical Writing (1987)
"I also gave a class called Mathematical Writing, just for one quarter," says Knuth. "The lectures are still of special interest because they feature quite a few important guest lecturers."
- two videos from 1980, which are the earliest to feature Knuth in Stanford's archives
- two five-session short courses about TeX (1981)
- twelve lectures about the implementation of TeX (1982)
- video recordings of eight history sessions about Computer Science at Stanford, taped in 1987 and featuring many alumni of our department
- Can computers help produce beautiful books? A corporate technical colloquium at R. R. Donnelley and Sons Co., Inc., Chicago (1988)
- some reminiscences by Professors Feigenbaum, Floyd, Golub, Herriot, Knuth, McCarthy, Miller, and Wiederhold about the founding of Stanford's Computer Science Department, The Living Legends (1997)
- Robert W Floyd, In Memoriam (2002)
- Stanford Engineering Hero Lecture: All Questions Answered (2011)