From Stanford CSD History

The prime founder of the Stanford Computer Science department is George Forsythe. Important contributors were Albert Bowker, Assistant Provost and Head of the Statistics Department at Stanford, and Jack Herriot, a long-time colleague of George. Bowker, later at Chancellor UC Berkeley, provided his recollections of the events starting in 1956 in a 1979 interview conducted by Pamela McCorduck.

Submitted by Robert Heriot:

Here is a summary of a conversation I had with Albert Bowker on the 8th of April 2003. It gives the earliest history of the Stanford computer center. Bowker later became chancellor of UC Berkeley. Some of the text below could be added to the early history that is on the web.

Bowker was involved with Fred Terman in the Provost office in acquiring the first computer. Bowker was a vice provost before becoming Dean of the Graduate Division in 1959. Bowker wanted the head to be someone with a combination of math skills and a feeling for organization and efficiency. He wanted someone with experience in practical work. Jack Herriot was the person with those skills. Bowker didn't think that they considered anyone else.

He said that Forsythe lost his job in 1954 when the National Bureau of Standards cut funding to the UCLA computer center where he was working. It also cut funds to 3 other centers, including one at Cornell. The funds cut occurred because the NBS exposed some battery additive as worthless. This caused someone to cut NBS funds because it was "anti-business". [GEF letters show that he had temporary teaching appointments at UCLA for the next 3 years until he came to Stanford in 1957].[Jack Herriot's notes show that Herriot was on a math dept. committee that recommended hiring GEF. GEF and Jack Herriot were fellow grad students at Brown and both received their PhDs in June 1941]

Bowker said that he thought Computer Science would become an important discipline. He advocated separating statistics, computer science and operations research from math departments so they could grow without the pressure of pureness from math departments. Statistics was first and successful by the time computer science starting spinning off. It was successful too. Operations research was not and was merged with other small departments into the Management Science and Engineering.

Bowker wanted a mathematician to head the center because he thought mathematics would be a more important part of computing than the computer itself. Was he prescient? Mathematics and algorithms is effectively the beginning of software.