|Birth Day:||January 10, 1938|
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He was a prodigy; In fact, he once won a competition in which he created 4,500 words from the phrase Ziegler's Giant Bar. The judges for the competition had only created half that amount.
Knuth received a scholarship in physics to the Case Institute of Technology (now part of Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland, Ohio, enrolling in 1956. He also joined Beta Nu Chapter of the Theta Chi fraternity. While studying physics at Case, Knuth was introduced to the IBM 650, an early commercial computer. After reading the computer's manual, Knuth decided to rewrite the assembly and compiler code for the machine used in his school, because he believed he could do it better.
Knuth published his first "scientific" article in a school magazine in 1957 under the title "The Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures". In it, he defined the fundamental unit of length as the thickness of Mad No. 26, and named the fundamental unit of force "whatmeworry". Mad published the article in issue No. 33 (June 1957).
In 1958, Knuth created a program to help his school's basketball team win their games. He assigned "values" to players in order to gauge their probability of getting points, a novel approach that Newsweek and CBS Evening News later reported on.
Knuth was one of the founding editors of Case Institute's Engineering and Science Review, which won a national award as best technical magazine in 1959. He then switched from physics to mathematics, and received two degrees from Case in 1960: his bachelor of science degree, and simultaneously a master of science by a special award of the faculty, who considered his work exceptionally outstanding.
Donald Knuth married Nancy Jill Carter on 24 June 1961, while he was a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. They have two children: John Martin Knuth and Jennifer Sierra Knuth.
In 1963, with mathematician Marshall Hall as his adviser, he earned a PhD in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology.
In 1967 Knuth attended Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics conference and someone asked what he did. At the time computer science was partitioned into numerical analysis, artificial intelligence and programming languages. Based on his study and The Art of Computer Programming book, Knuth decided the next time someone asked he would say, “Analysis of algorithms.”
He accepted a commission to write a book on computer programming language compilers. While working on this project, Knuth decided that he could not adequately treat the topic without first developing a fundamental theory of computer programming, which became The Art of Computer Programming. He originally planned to publish this as a single book. As Knuth developed his outline for the book, he concluded that he required six volumes, and then seven, to thoroughly cover the subject. He published the first volume in 1968.
Knuth then left this position to join the Stanford University faculty in 1969, where he is now Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus.
In 1971, Knuth was the recipient of the first ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award. He has received various other awards including the Turing Award, the National Medal of Science, the John von Neumann Medal, and the Kyoto Prize.
Knuth was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1975. In 1992, he became an associate of the French Academy of Sciences. Also that year, he retired from regular research and teaching at Stanford University in order to finish The Art of Computer Programming. He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 2003.
Knuth's Chinese name is Gao Dena (simplified Chinese: 高德纳; traditional Chinese: 高德納; pinyin: Gāo dé nà). In 1977, he was given this name by Frances Yao, shortly before making a 3-week trip to China. In his 1980 volume of The Art of Computer Programming (simplified Chinese: 计算机程序设计艺术; traditional Chinese: 電腦程式設計藝術; pinyin: Jìsuànjī chéngxù shèjì yìshù), Knuth explains that he embraced his Chinese name because he wanted to be known by the growing numbers of computer programmers in China at the time. In 1989, his Chinese name was placed atop the Journal of Computer Science and Technology's header, which Knuth says "makes me feel close to all Chinese people although I cannot speak your language".
Knuth was elected a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society (DFBCS) in 1980 in recognition of Knuth's contributions to the field of computer science.
Knuth used WEB to program TeX and METAFONT, and published both programs as books: The TeXbook, which is originally published in 1984, and The METAFONTbook, which is originally published in 1986. Around the same time, LaTeX, the now-widely-adopted macro package based on TeX, was first developed by Leslie Lamport, who later published its first user manual in 1986.
In 1990 he was awarded the one-of-a-kind academic title of Professor of The Art of Computer Programming, which has since been revised to Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming.
In 1995, Knuth wrote the foreword to the book A=B by Marko Petkovšek, Herbert Wilf and Doron Zeilberger. Knuth is also an occasional contributor of language puzzles to Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics.
In 2006, Knuth was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent surgery in December that year and stated, "a little bit of radiation therapy ... as a precaution but the prognosis looks pretty good", as he reported in his video autobiography.
Knuth used to pay a finder's fee of $2.56 for any typographical errors or mistakes discovered in his books, because "256 pennies is one hexadecimal dollar", and $0.32 for "valuable suggestions". According to an article in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review, these Knuth reward checks are "among computerdom's most prized trophies". Knuth had to stop sending real checks in 2008 due to bank fraud, and instead now gives each error finder a "certificate of deposit" from a publicly listed balance in his fictitious "Bank of San Serriffe".
Knuth was elected as a Fellow (first class of Fellows) of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics in 2009 for his outstanding contributions to mathematics. He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. In 2012, he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. Other awards and honors include:
Knuth is an organist and a composer. In 2016 he completed a musical piece for organ titled Fantasia Apocalyptica, which he describes as "translation of the Greek text of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine into music". It was premièred in Sweden on January 10, 2018.
Currently, Donald Knuth is 84 years, 4 months and 10 days old. Donald Knuth will celebrate 85th birthday on a Tuesday 10th of January 2023.
Find out about Donald Knuth birthday activities in timeline view here.