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The ancient roots of computer science

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14 September 2012

Ramon Llull and his student, Thomas le Myésier (1321). This painting is in the public domain because of its age.
A painting of Ramon Llull and student, Thomas le Myésier (13C). This painting is in the public domain because of its age.

How thirteenth century thoughts have contributed to modern day computer science will be discussed at an upcoming lecture.

Emeritus Professor John Crossley from the Monash University Faculty of Information Technology will be discussing the life and work of writer, philosopher and logician Ramon Llull at his upcoming lecture ‘How can thirteenth century thoughts have contributed to computer science?’.

“Ramon Llull, who lived from 1232 to 1315, has anachronistically been called the father of computer science and the first computer scientist,” Emeritus Professor Crossley said.

“While these titles are certainly debatable, one can trace the influence of his ideas through to the modern discipline of computer science. I find his work fascinating for the insights into how we slowly develop sophisticated ideas and systems.”

Emeritus Professor Crossley has identified seven specific contributions Llull made to computer science.

“Llull designed a very simple machine, which you can see working online. However, his system didn’t solve problems. It formulated statements or questions in the first ever formal computer language,” Emeritus Professor Crossley said.

“The idea and construction of a formal language is, in my opinion, the most important of his contributions. It is the forerunner of computer languages, without which all our current machines would cease to function.”

Monash University has been ranked as the top university for computer science in Australia, and in the top 100 worldwide, according to the latest Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), one of the most respected and widely used of the university rankings.

The ARWU ranking recognises Monash University's research performance in the field of computer science.

Emeritus Professor Crossley’s talk is part of the ‘History of Science, Mathematics, Philosophy and Technology’ lecture series, organised by Dr Alan Dorin from the Monash Faculty of Information Technology.

‘How can thirteenth century thoughts have contributed to computer science?’ will be held from 2-3pm on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 in Seminar Room 135, Building 26, at Monash University’s Clayton campus.

Professor Crossley's opinion piece on this topic can be viewed on The Conversation.