School of Computer Science Records
Scope and Content Note
The records are predominantly administrative materials related to the functioning of the Department. There is also a selection of video-taped lectures from the early 1970s. These records compliment the public documents such as the Faculty Research Review and catalog in providing an impression of the development of a successful research department (facility, institution) The records take their rightful place in the larger history of the development of Computer Science as a scholarly discipline.
Primarily, the records in this collection stem from the tenure of Joseph Traub as head of the department, and seem to consist of records which came directly from his former office. There are few records from the period prior to 1970 or after 1979. The records that do exist from these eras contain less administrative materials in comparison to the records from the 1970s. The 1970s are the exception. There are few departmental planning documents from any other period. It is not known whether these documents still exist, and if they do, where they are located.
Notably, there are few materials which document the main transitions of the department. There are no records relating to the formation of the Computation Center in 1955 nor are there representations of the evolution of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon which led to the formation of the Computer Science Department. The supporting documents relating to the formation of the School of Computer Science are also absent.
Every attempt was made to incorporate the original notes on the folders into the file folder descriptions, but most folders were re-labeled according to standards of archival practice. It was not always known who created the folder labels, as the materials were re-housed at some point after accessioning.
- Majority of material found within 1970-1979
Biography or History
The Department, throughout its history, had always drawn upon the expertise and interests of faculty from other departments and schools. This was another product of the work of Newell and Simon. Their strong ties to other Schools, such as the Graduate School of Industrial Administration and the disciplines of psychology and cognitive science influenced the direction of the program and its relationships with other disciplines. As leaders in the field of Computer Science, they along with the Department Head, Alan Perlis, recognized that the burgeoning field was intimately related to human thought processes and had implications in all aspects of modern life. It was not sufficient for their students to merely have excellent technical skills. The focus of the department was on developing scholarly research skills, as well as the communication skills necessary for effective teaching and presentations. The setting of CMU with its focus on interdisciplinary education fostered this research environment. Beginning in the 1980s, the collaboration between the Computer Science Department and other university departments acquired a more formalized structure. Specialized disciplines within the larger focus of Computer Science began to offer degrees. These were often the result of collaborations between Computer Science and other departments or schools.
The 1970s saw the development of the department into one of the leading Computer Science Programs in the country. With Joseph Traub at its helm, the department began to gain momentum both in terms of its relationship with the students as well as its interconnection with the wider scientific world. This was a very active period, in which many curriculum ideas were implemented and refined. Research as always was a priority. Despite difficult economic times, the department consistently maintained contracts with the government and industry.
Initially, the Computer Science Department offered only a PhD. Program. Masters Degrees were occasionally awarded, but the primary focus was on the Doctorate program. As the program expanded, they began to work with undergraduate students, but it was not until 1990 that the Bachelor of Science degree began to be awarded in computer science.
In the mid-1980s, under the leadership of President Cyert, Allen Newell, Provost Angel Jordan, Herbert Simon, and Department Head Nico Habermann, research began to be done into the possibility of forming a School of Computer Science. The Computer Science Department, up to this point, had shown itself to be largely financially self-supporting. In 1986, the department became a "free-floating" department which was intended to address the potential of the Department in becoming a free-standing school. This freedom allowed the department to concentrate on issues which had the potential to impede or facilitate its independent status. The process of developing the school took several years and is likely to have begun before 1985. The School of Computer Science was formed in 1988.
From its beginning the PhD program prioritized building a community which was based on scholarly research techniques. This concentration on research within the community of faculty and students was directed towards creating an excellent system of education taking place within the department as well as to set a high standard for scientific research in the expanding field of Computer Science.
This effort was always collaborative. The department interacted with many university schools such as Graduate School of Industrial Administration and various departments within the School of Engineering and Science and other disciplines on practical matters as well as in research collaborations.
9.5 Linear feet (10 boxes)
- School of Computer Science Collection 0000.19
- May 29, 2008
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
Part of the Carnegie Mellon University Archives Repository
4909 Frew St
Pittsburgh PA 15213