## Happy Birthday to Knuth!

Scott at Shtetl-optimized informs that today is the birthday of Donald E Knuth:

Today is the 70th birthday of Donald E. Knuth: Priest of Programming, Titan of Typesetting, Monarch of MMIX, intellectual heir to Turing and von Neumann, greatest living computer scientist by almost-universal assent … alright, you get the idea.

That being the case, Jeff Shallit proposed to various CS bloggers that we should all band together and present the master with a birthday surprise: one post each about how his work has inspired us.

I am no computer scientist; however, a small detail like that did not stop me from buying all the three volumes of Knuth’s The art of computer programming. So, let it also not stop me from writing a small post about my discovery of Knuth and his work.

Like many researchers of my generation in the Institute at that time, my introduction to Knuth happened via $\LaTeX$; that led me to $\TeX$. Then, I happened to read his interview in Mathematical People. Around the same time, I got to read his book on Mathematical Writing (co-authored with Tracy Larrabee and Paul Roberts) which is basically the class notes of a course that he gave at Stanford. Then, via some discussions on Djikstra’s GoTo Statement considered harmful, I learnt about Knuth’s concept of Literate Programming, which led me back to his work on $\TeX$ and the five volumes of the $\TeX$ code that he published using WEB. I even used CWEB for a while. Finally, a couple of years ago, I also spent a lot of time watching his video lectures of a problem solving course of his, hosted online (and, browsing the net for his speeches and other miscellaneous writing).

Thus, so far, I have been influenced by Knuth at least in a couple of important aspects: technical writing (production of physically elegant documents written in good style) and writing literate code. In that sense, I remain his student forever (and, this probably is also the time to thanks all my seniors, lab mates and friends who not only taught me $\LaTeX$ but also to approach it with an attitude of awe).

For a more nuanced appreciation of Knuth and his work, you might want to follow some of the links in Scott’s post. Have fun!