Seminar: Pioneers in Computer Science

Algoritmit ja koneoppiminen
Syventävät opinnot
This seminar presents the history of computer science through the people behind the innovations. Each student will give a presentation about the achievements of one person (or group of persons for a particular theme). The language of the seminar is English. Students of all specialization areas are welcome.
Vuosi Lukukausi Päivämäärä Periodi Kieli Vastuuhenkilö
2016 kevät 20.01-04.05. 3-4 Englanti Patrik Floréen


Aika Huone Luennoija Päivämäärä
Ke 14-16 C220 Patrik Floréen 20.01.2016-02.03.2016
Ke 14-16 C220 Patrik Floréen 16.03.2016-04.05.2016

Information for international students

This seminar presents the history of computer science through the people behind the innovations. We will start with people like Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, and continue with people like Alan Turing and John von Neumann. Or so I hope, let's see what we agree at the initial meeting.

Depending on the number of students in the seminar, we will at each weekly session have one or two presentations by the students, or by groups of students. We will have 19 students, so 10 sessions with two presentations per session suffice.

There are many books about the history of computer science (e.g., Shasha & Lazere: Out of Their Minds - The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists, Springer Verlag, 1995) and online sources (e.g., wikipedia page "History of computer science").

Here are some suggestions for persons to take a look at.

“Compulsory” giants are Alan Turing (computability, AI) and John von Neumann (universal genius of several scientific disciplines; first electronic computers, cellular automata, game theory). Separate talks, please, about Turing and von Neumann.

If you want to dig into “old timers” you can talk about Charles Babbage (mechanical computer), Lady Ada Lovelace (programming for Babbage’s machine), and maybe also Herman Hollerith (punch card machine) in one talk.

For more early computers you can choose Maurice Wilkes (EDSAC computer), Howard Aiken (Mark I, II, III and IV computers), John W Mauchly and John Presper Eckert (ENIAC) or some of them, but Grace Hopper (compilers for Mark II and III computers, COBOL) would be nice to have included in any case, not just for the bug.

For something about processors, you may look at Gene Amdahl (Amdahl computers), Seymour Cray (supercomputers), John Cocke (RISC processor), Carver Mead (VLSI, stll living person).

For basics in theoretical computer science the following trio makes a nice set: Stephen Cook (NP-completeness), Richard Karp (NP-completeness), Juris Hartmanis (computational complexity theory); these are all living persons.

For artificial intelligence, see John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky (living person).

There are also several other interesting persons, such as Edsger W. Dijkstra (algorithms, synchronization), Claude Shannon (information theory), Richard Hamming (coding), Andrey Kolmogorov (algorithmic information theory), and several people still very alive: Vinton Cerf (internet), Michael O. Rabin (cryptography), Niklaus Wirth (computer languages), and of course our own (and much younger) Linus Torvalds (operating system).

Generally speaking, Turing Award recipients are good candidates cover; they include people mentioned above, e.g., Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Edsger Dijkstra.

The language of the seminar is English. The seminar is suitable fors students of all specialization areas.

At the first meeting 20 January, we agreed on the schedule and about who is presenting what; see timetable below!

The presentation format would be a written report (suitable length about 8 pages + references) to be submitted the weekend before the presentation + an oral presentation (maximum time 45 minutues including discussion after the presentation) to the seminar audience including a slideshow (or some other suitable presentation mode). In addition, participants of the seminar need to attend a minimum number of 12 presentations and to write a short 1/2 page evaluation report about (at least) 8 presentations, with a grading (1-5 with motivation) of the presentation (i.e., half a page per presentation = about 4 pages in total for 8 presentations).

So in summary, you produce the following:

(1) a written report (8 pages+references, due a few days before the presentation)

(2) a presentation (time slot 45 min), and

(3) attend 12 presentations and write an evaluation (half page) with gradings of 8 presentations. Note: Due to withdrawals, which cannot be forseen, the presentations on 6.4. and 13.4. will each be counted as 2 for the attention limit of 12. Please send your evaulations by 11 May.

The evaluation (point 3 above) you send all together as one file at the end of the seminar in May to patrik.floreen at

Small practical comment: I have to assume that you are experienced in writing scientific text (such as a Bachelor thesis). The seminar is not meant as a course in how to write scientific text. Normally it is assumed that all participants have done their Bachelor before entering the seminar.

The grade of the seminar will be decided on the basis of all the components above and on activity in the seminar discussions. The written report and oral presentation have the most weight in the grading.


Reports and slides will be put here after they are submitted, unless the author/presenter explicitly wishes not to publish the reports or slides.

The first presentation is 10.2.2016.

Date Presenter Topic Report Slides
10.2. Heikki Rantala Kurt Gödel Report Presentation
17.2. Sezin Yaman Alan Turing Report Presentation
17.2. Wen Guo John von Neumann Report Presentation
24.2. Elaine Zosa Grace Hopper Report Presentation
24.2. Yan He Anita Borg Report Presentation
2.3. Jarno Leppänen Claude Shannon Report Presentation
2.3. Ida Värä Andrey Kolmogorov Report Presentation
9.3. - exam week: no meeting    
16.3. Jenna Lindh Charles Babbage + Ada Lovelace Report Presentation
16.3. Akkas Haider Niklaus Wirth Report Presentation
23.3. - exceptionally no meeting    
30.3. - Easter holiday: no meeting    
6.4. Sebastian Falk Richard Hamming Report Presentation
6.4. (open spot) (open spot: was Michael O. Rabin)    
13.4. Nicola Holmes Edsger W. Dijkstra Report Presentation
13.4. (open spot) (open spot: was Tim Berners Lee)    
20.4. Laura Kalli Barbara Liskov Report Presentation
20.4. Jenny Tyrväinen Leslie Lamport Report Presentation
27.4. Yunong Tan John McCarthy Report Presentation
27.4. Johannes Verwijnen Marvin Minsky Report Presentation
4.5. Olli-Pekka Harkonsalo Vinton Cerf Report Presentation
4.5. Meiling Li Linus Torvalds Report Presentation