TITLE: Peter Naur and "Datalogy" AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 12, 2016 3:58 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Peter Naur died early this year at the age of 87. Many of you may know Naur as the "N" in BNF notation. His contributions to CS were much broader and deeper than BNF, though. He received the 2005 Turing Award in recognition of his contributions to programming language and compiler design, including his involvement in the definition of Algol 60. I have always been a huge fan of his essay Programming as Theory Building, which I share with anyone I think might enjoy it. When Michael Caspersen sent a note to the SIGCSE mailing list, I learned something new about Naur: he coined the term datalogy for "the science of the nature and use of data" and suggested that it might be a suitable replacement for the term "computer science". I had to learn more... It turns out that Naur coined this term in a letter to the Communications of the ACM, which ran in the July 1966 under the headline "The Science of Datalogy". This letter is available online through the ACM digital library. Unfortunately, this is behind a paywall for many of you who might be interested. For posterity, here is an excerpt from that page:
This is to advocate that the following new words, denoting various aspects of our subject, be considered for general adoption (the stress is shown by an accent):I also learned from Caspersen's email that Naur was named the first Professor in Datalogy in Denmark, and held that titled at the University of Copenhagen until he retired in 1998. Naur was a pioneer of computing. We all benefit from his work every day. -----
- datálogy, the science of the nature and use of data,
- datamátics, that part of datalogy which deals with the processing of data by automatic means,
- datámaton, an automatic device for processing data.
In this terminology much of what is now referred to "data processing" would be datamatics. In many cases this will be a gain in clarity because the new word includes the important aspect of data representations, while the old one does not. Datalogy might be a suitable replacement for "computer science."
The objection that possibly one of these words has already been used as a proper name of some activity may be answered partly by saying that of course the subject of datamatics is written with a lower case d, partly by remembering that the word "electronics" is used doubly in this way without inconvenience.
What also speaks for these words is that they will transfer gracefully into many other languages. We have been using them extensively in my local environment for the last few months and have found them a great help.
Finally I wish to mention that datamatics and datamaton (Danish: datamatik and datamat) are due to Paul Lindgreen and Per Brinch Hansen, while datalogy (Danish: datalogi) is my own invention.