The 2016 Paris C. Kanellakis Memorial Lecture: Donald Knuth

Professor Donald Knuth Days At Brown: A Celebration Of Computer Science

Directions to the event are available here.

December 1-2, 2016
Room 368 and Third Floor Atrium
Thomas J. Watson Sr. Center for Information Technology
115 Waterman Street, Providence, RI 02912

This series honors Paris Kanellakis, a distinguished computer scientist who was an esteemed and beloved faculty member. This year, Brown CS is delighted to welcome one of the greatest minds of our discipline, widely regarded as an artistic genius, Renaissance man, and perhaps the most gifted programmer of all time, Donald Knuth. We're extremely happy to return Professor Knuth to a city that he remembers fondly (he holds an honorary doctorate from Brown, and his daughter is an alum), where he will deliver two lectures, continue a conversation with Professor Emeritus Peter Wegner that shaped the course of CS more than 50 years ago, and even take a few moments to enjoy himself by playing two prominent local pipe organs.

"Knuth Days At Brown" Schedule 

4 PM on Thursday, December 1, in CIT 368, the Paris C. Kanellakis Memorial Lecture: "Hamiltonian Paths in Antiquity"

About 1850, William Rowan Hamilton invented the Icosian Game, which involved finding a path that encounters all points of a network without retracing its steps. Variants of his game have turned out to be important in many modern computer applications. The speaker will give evidence that people have been interested in such questions since at least Graeco-Roman times. Furthermore, ingenious Sanskrit and Arabic documents from the ninth century, and continuing through medieval times, also reveal that this is perhaps the oldest nontrivial combinatorial problem in the history of civilization.

A reception will follow, including an "All Questions Answered with Professor Knuth" panel discussion. This event is hosted by Sorin Istrail and Eli Upfal.

4 PM on Friday, December 2, in CIT 368, a John von Neumann Lecture: "The Art of Computer Programming: Satisfiability and Combinatorics"

A reception will follow, including a "Sweat Box Session with Professor Knuth" panel discussion featuring rigorous questioning from graduate students and other attendees. This event is hosted by Sorin Istrail and Eli Upfal.

Additional Information

Donald Knuth

Donald Knuth, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, is one of the most influential computer scientists and CS educators alive today.  Knuth is the author of the multi-volume series The Art of Computer Programming, which founded the field of the analysis of algorithms and their computational complexity, and he made many pioneering contributions to multiple branches of theoretical CS and programming languages. His seminal work includes promoting the widespread use of asymptotic notation, the TeX typesetting system, the METAFONT font definition language and rendering system, and the Computer Modern typeface family. He designed the MIX/MMIX instruction set architectures and is known for his innovative work at facilitating literate programming by developing the WEB and CWEB programming systems. His many awards include the Turing Award (often referred to as the Nobel Prize for Computing), the National Medal of Science, the John von Neumann Medal, and the Kyoto Prize

Knuth is also the namesake of the Donald E. Knuth Prize, which is awarded jointly by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society for outstanding contributions to the foundations of computer science. It's awarded at two of the most significant annual CS conferences: STOC (ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing) and FOCS (IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science). 

von Neumann At Brown

71 years ago, John von Neumann lectured at Brown University during the week before April 17, 1934. In a letter to Rudolf Ortvay sent from Princeton (John von Neumann: Selected Letters, edited by Miklos Redei, American Mathematical Society, History of Mathematics Volume 27, 2005), he writes, "We are well, although I am a bit pumped dry, for I held three lectures last week at Yale, Harvard and Brown Universities."

The "Sweatbox" Concept

Funded by the National Science Foundation as a workshop called "Q&A Boot Camp at Brown University: Asking Tough Scientific Questions," the “Sweatbox” session as a didactic concept was inspired by the famous eight-week “Summer Course/Boot Camp on Embryology” at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA and the director of the course for 15 years, Professor Eric Davidson of the Division of Biology at California Institute of Technology. The story goes that invited speakers at this course would talk in the laboratory’s Warm Room and would be subjected there to tough scientific questions about their scientific findings and their claims. Professor Davidson, Professor-in-Chief of developmental gene regulatory network biology and a beacon of critical discourse, has mentored about 300 PhD students, postdocs, and undergraduates in his laboratory. Basing his work on causality-focused and genomics-based systems, and with insights from experimental biology, biochemistry, physics and engineering, he has brought together biologists, physicists, biochemists, engineers, mathematicians, statisticians and computer scientists in a Renaissance research quest for the functional meaning of DNA. The resulting symbiosis of insights is von Neumannesque in spirit and fits well with von Neumann’s unfinished research towards a new logical and computational model for the biological cell by unifying continuous and discrete mathematics via a concept of thermodynamic error. Our “Sweatbox” is so named to honor Professor Davidson’s academic legacy.


For more information, please contact Coordinator Kate Correia (, 401-863-7602) or Faculty Host Sorin Istrail (