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The importance of awards and the Kyoto Prize


Honorary doctorates
Donald Knuth Scientist
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I used to say that I... I accepted these doctor's degrees in order to make my mother happy. And I think it did but... but after she died I still accepted them so I knew that it was, you know... that it meant something to me as well. No I'm... I'm not serious... what I... but... but I do think I, you know, I don't have time to travel very... very much now but... but I... I have travelled for the purpose of... of these... of these... I guess I should write a book about commencement addresses because I've sat through so many college degree ceremonies.  But the... but the... but it's important to the field of computer science because we're a new kid on the block.  Computer science hasn't existed for... for more than 40 years while other subjects have been going on for a long, long time. And so when... when a university decides to award a doctorate in the field of computer science this is... this is good news for... for the... that field, that... that places are giving more credence to the idea that we have a... a field that's... that's... stands on its own with... with respect to, you know, fundamental problems that... that it is... is working on. So... so for... for me this... since I was the, you know... one of the earliest, well, you know, from the generation where... where somebody can give me an award where I can sort of represent the field of computer science, so I consider these degrees are most, you know... primarily for the field rather than for me personally. My... my friend Bob Floyd always said that it was getting the first... first award was the hardest, after that... people are always hesitant to give an award to somebody who's never received an award before but after the first one then... then it's all coasting. And he said he was going to... he... he never got a PhD himself but he was going to... he was going to get it by the green stamp method.  If he had enough letters addressed to him as... as Doctor Floyd then he could submit that to some place and they would give him an honorary doctorate.

Born in 1938, American computing pioneer Donald Knuth is known for his greatly influential multi-volume work, 'The Art of Computer Programming', his novel 'Surreal Numbers', his invention of TeX and METAFONT electronic publishing tools and his quirky sense of humor.

Listeners: Dikran Karagueuzian

Trained as a journalist, Dikran Karagueuzian is the director of CSLI Publications, publisher of seven books by Donald Knuth. He has known Knuth since the late seventies when Knuth was developing TeX and Metafont, the typesetting and type designing computer programs, respectively.

Tags: Bob Floyd

Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008