What Is Computer Science?

Last Update: 25 March 2007

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

Significant items are in boldface; items are listed in chronological order.

(Many items that do not have links may be available online from the UB Libraries Electronic Journal holdings.)


 "The Holy Grail of computer science is to capture the messy complexity of the natural world and express it algorithmically." 

Teresa Marrin Nakra,
     quoted on p.66 of
     Justin Davidson (2006),
      "Measure for Measure: Exploring the Mysteries of Conducting"
     The New Yorker (21 August): 60-69.  


  1. Newell, Allen; Perlis, Alan J.; & Simon, Herbert A. (1967), "Computer Science", Science 157(3795) (22 September): 1373-1374.

  2. Knuth, Donald (1974), "Computer Science and Its Relation to Mathematics", American Mathematical Monthly 81(4) (April): 323-343.

  3. Newell, Allen, & Simon, Herbert A. (1976), "Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search", Communications of the ACM 19(3) (March): 113-126.

  4. Arden, Bruce W. (1980), "COSERS Overview" [PDF], in Bruce W. Arden (ed.), What Can Be Automated? The Computer Science and Engineering Research Study (COSERS) (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), Ch. 1, pp. 1-31.

  5. Boorstin, Daniel J. (1983), The Discoverers (New York: Random House), Ch. 49: "The Microscope of Nature":

    NEW Of possibly related interest:

    1. McBride, Neil (2007), "The Death of Computing".

    2. Mander, Keith (2007), "Demise of Computer Science Exaggerated"

      • A reply to McBride 2007.

  6. Krantz, Steven G. (1984), Letter to the Editor about the relation of computer science to mathematics, American Mathematical Monthly 91(9) (November): 598-600.

  7. Denning, Peter J. (1985), "What Is Computer Science?" [PDF], American Scientist 73 (January-February): 16-19.

  8. Abrahams, Paul (1987), "What Is Computer Science?", Communications of the ACM 30(6) (June): 472-473.

  9. Loui, Michael C. (1987), "Computer Science Is an Engineering Discipline" [PDF] Engineering Education.

  10. Denning, Peter J.; Comer, Douglas E.; Gries, David; Mulder, Michael C.; Tucker, Allen; Turner, A. Joe; & Young, Paul R. (1989), "Computing as a Discipline", Communications of the ACM 32(1) (January): 9-23.

    • "A Taxonomy of Subfields in CS&E:

      • Algorithms and data structures
      • Programming languages
      • Computer architecture
      • Numeric and symbolic computation
      • Operating systems
      • Software engineering
      • Databases and information retrieval
      • Artificial intelligence and robotics
      • Human-computer interaction"

  11. Bajcsy, Ruzena K.; Borodin, Allan B.; Liskov, Barbara H.; & Ullman, Jeffrey D. (1992), "Computer Science Statewide Review" (unpublished report).

  12. Hartmanis, Juris, & Lin, Herbert (eds.?) (1992), "What Is Computer Science and Engineering?" [PDF], in Juris Hartmanis & Herbert Lin (eds.), Computing the Future: A Broader Agenda for Computer Science and Engineering (Washington, DC: National Academy Press), Ch. 6, pp. 163-216.

  13. Abelson, Harold, & Sussman, Gerald Jay, with Sussman, Julie (1996), Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, "Preface to the First Edition":

  14. Brooks, Frederick P., Jr. (1996), "The Computer Scientist as Toolsmith II", Communications of the ACM 39(3) (March): 61-68.

  15. Gal-Ezer, Judith, & Harel, David (1998), "What (Else) Should CS Educators Know?", Communications of the ACM 41(9) (September): 77-84.

  16. Parnas, David Lorge (1998), "Software Engineering Programmes are not Computer Science Programmes", Annals of Software Engineering.

  17. Denning, Peter J. (1999), "Computer Science: The Discipline", in Anthony Ralston & David Hemmindinger (eds.) (2000), Encyclopedia of Computer Science.

  18. Jacob, Christian (1999), "What Is Computer Science?" [PDF]

  19. Shagrir, Oron (1999), "What Is Computer Science About?" [PDF], The Monist 82(1): 131-149.

  20. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (2001), "Fundamentals of Computer Science: Symposium" (conference program)

  21. Johnson, George (2001), "All Science Is Computer Science", The New York Times (25 March): WK1, WK5.

  22. Shapiro, Stuart C. (2001), "Computer Science: The Study of Procedures" [PDF]

    • Note: There is also an earlier, slightly different version, apparently no longer on line:
      Shapiro, Stuart C. (1997), "What Is Computer Science?".

    • Also see his website "Computer Science"

  23. Foley, Jim (2002), "Computing > Computer Science".

  24. Boston University Department of Computer Science (2003), "What Is Computer Science?" [PDF]

  25. IEEE/ACM Computing Curricula Series, including:

    1. Computer Science Volume (CC2001) [240-page PDF]
    2. Computing Curricula 2005: The Overview Report [62-page PDF]

  26. Denning, Peter J. (2005), "Is Computer Science Science?", Communications of the ACM 48(4) (April): 27-31.

  27. Parlante, Nick (2005), "What Is Computer Science?", Inroads—The SIGCSE Bulletin 37(2) (June): 24-25.

  28. Anthes, Gary (2006), "Computer Science Looks for a Remake", Computerworld (1 May).

  29. Wing, Jeannette M. (2006), "Computational Thinking", Communications of the ACM 49(3) (March): 33-35. [PDF]

  30. Easton, Thomas A. (2006), "Beyond the Algorithmization of the Sciences", Communications of the ACM 49(5) (May): 31-33.

  31. Naur, Peter (2007), "Computing Versus Human Thinking", Communications of the ACM 50(1) (January): 85-94.

  32. Tedre, Matti (2007), "The Philosophy of Computer Science (Winter-Spring 2007)"

  33. Department of Computing Sciences, Elon University, Elon, NC (retrieved 2/12/2007), "What Is Computer Science?"

  34. Summary

Copyright © 2004-2007 by William J. Rapaport ( rapaport@cse.buffalo.edu)