George Forsythe

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For other people named George Forsyth, see George Forsyth (disambiguation).
George Elmer Forsythe
Born January 8, 1917
Died April 9, 1972 (1972-04-10) (aged 55)
Fields Mathematics, meteorology and computer science
Institutions Stanford University
National Bureau of Standards
Alma mater Swarthmore College
Brown University
Doctoral advisor William Feller
Jacob Tamarkin
Doctoral students Richard Brent
J. Alan George
Cleve Moler
James Ortega
Beresford Parlett
Spouse Alexandra Illmer Forsythe

George Elmer Forsythe (January 8, 1917 – April 9, 1972[1]) was the founder and head of Stanford University's Computer Science Department.[1] George came to Stanford in the Mathematics Department in 1959, and served as professor and chairman of the Computer Science department from 1965 until his death.[2] Forsythe served as the president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and also co-authored four books on computer science and a fifth on meteorology, and edited more than 75 other books on computer science.

Forsythe married Alexandra I. Forsythe, who wrote the first published textbook in computer science[3] and actively participated in her husband's work, while promoting a more active role for women than was common at the time.[4] Between 1950 and 1958 both of them programmed using the SWAC at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Los Angeles and later at UCLA after the western division of NBS was closed due to political pressures (see Oral History cited below). With his wife, Forsythe had a daughter and a son.

According to Donald Knuth, Forsythe's greatest contributions were helping to establish computer science as its own academic discipline and starting the field of refereeing and editing algorithms as scholarly work.[5] Professor Forsythe supervised 17 PhD graduates; many of them went into academic careers.[6] He won a Lester R. Ford Award in 1969[7] and again in 1971.[8]

Books by Forsythe[edit]

  • Dynamic Meteorology (with William Gustin and Jörgen Holmboy), John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1945, 375pp.
  • Bibliography of Russian Mathematics Books, Chelsea, New York, 1956, 106 pp.
  • Numerical analysis and partial differential equations. Contemporary state of numerical analysis, Wiley 1958 (with Paul C. Rosenbloom: Linear partial equations)[9]
  • Finite Difference Methods for Partial Differential Equations (with Wolfgang Wasow), John Wiley, New York, 1966, 444pp.
  • Computer Solution of Linear Algebraic Systems (with Cleve B. Moler), Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1967, 153 pp.
  • Computer methods for mathematical computations (with Michael A. Malcolm and Cleve B. Moler), Prentice-Hall Series in Automatic Computation, Prentice-Hall., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1977. MR0458783 ISBN 0-13-165332-6 This book about numerical methods was partly finished when Forsythe died.

Knuth's 1972 CACM article[5] lists all of Forsythe's published works.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ SIAM: Remembering George Forsythe
  3. ^ Alexandra I. Forsythe: Computer Science, a First Course; Wiley 1975.
  4. ^ Jane D. Fairbanks and Helen L. Bryson: Second Careers for Women; Stanford University, 1975.
  5. ^ a b Knuth, Donald E. (1972). "George Forsythe and the Development of Computer Science" (PDF). Communications of the ACM. 15 (8): 721–726. doi:10.1145/361532.361538. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Forsythe, George (1968). "What to do till the computer scientist comes". Amer. Math. Monthly. 75: 454–462. doi:10.2307/2314698. 
  8. ^ Forsythe, George (1970). "Pitfalls in computation, or why a math book isn't enough". Amer. Math. Monthly. 77: 931–956. doi:10.2307/2318109. 
  9. ^ Lax, Peter D. (1959). "Review: Numerical analysis and partial differential equations, by George E. Forsythe and Paul C. Rosenbloom" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 65 (6): 342–343. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1959-10363-3. 

External links[edit]