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KURT GÖDEL
(1906-1978)

Founder of theoretical computer science
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In 1931, just a few years after Julius Lilienfeld patented the transistor, Kurt Gödel (or `Goedel' but not `Godel') layed the foundations of theoretical computer science with his work on universal formal languages and the limits of proof and computation. He constructed formal systems allowing for self-referential statements that talk about themselves, in particular, about whether they can be derived from an enumerable set of given axioms through a computational theorem proving procedure. Gödel went on to construct statements that claim their own unprovability, to demonstrate that traditional math is either flawed in a certain algorithmic sense or contains unprovable but true statements.

Gödel's incompleteness result is widely regarded as the most remarkable achievement of 20th century mathematics, although some mathematicians say it is logic, not math, and others call it the fundamental result of theoretical computer science (reformulated by Church & Post & Turing around 1936), a discipline that did not yet officially exist back then but was effectively created through Gödel's work. It had enormous impact not only on computer science but also on philosophy and other fields.

Bio highlights:

1906: born in Bruenn.
1923: Vienna University.
1931: most famous paper at age 25 [1].
1953: IAS, Princeton.
1978: Starves himself to death.

[1]. Kurt Gödel. Ueber formal unentscheidbare Saetze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme I. Monatshefte fuer Mathematik und Physik, 38:173-198, 1931.

Schickard Leibniz Turing Konrad Zuse Schmidhuber's law: computer history speed-up
Correspondence to Nature and Science on Gödel & Zuse & Turing:

J. Schmidhuber. Science, vol 1638, p 1639, June 2012. See also comment on response by A. Hodges.

J. Schmidhuber. Nature vol 483, p 541, 29 March 2012.

J. Schmidhuber: Nature 429 p 501, June 2004. Full text.

Since Gödel's exhibition of the fundamental limits of proof and computation, and Konrad Zuse's subsequent construction of the first programmable computer (1935-1941), there has been a lot of work on specialized algorithms solving problems taken from more or less general problem classes. Apparently, however, until recently one remarkable fact has escaped the attention of computer scientists: it is possible to use self-referential proof systems to build optimally efficient yet conceptually very simple universal problem solvers: the Gödel machines (2003).