Hal Abelson

computer scientist
Hal Abelson, 2007

Hal Abelson (born April 26, 1947) is the Class of 1992 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the MIT, and a fellow of the IEEE. He holds an A.B. degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from MIT.


  • If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.
    • Source: Public Knowledge - Hal Abelson; also quoted in Vortex dynamics in thin films of amorphous Mo77Ge23, 1998, p. 6
      • Abelson attributes this thought to his Princeton roommate Jeff Goll
  • Applicants must also have extensive knowledge of Unix, although they should have sufficiently good programming taste to not consider this an achievement
  • In the Middle Ages people built cathedrals, where the whole town would get together and make a thing that's greater than any individual person could do and the society would kind of revel in that. We don't do that as much anymore, but in a sense this is kind of like building a cathedral.
  • Anything which uses science as part of its name isn't: political science, creation science, computer science.
  • "What’s important is not just to develop the technology; it’s to develop the processes."
  • "It is not that there is some magic technology. It is what are you going to do with it?"
  • "[Computer science] is not really about computers -- and it's not about computers in the same sense that physics is not really about particle accelerators, and biology is not about microscopes and Petri dishes...and geometry isn't really about using surveying instruments. Now the reason that we think computer science is about computers is pretty much the same reason that the Egyptians thought geometry was about surveying instruments: when some field is just getting started and you don't really understand it very well, it's very easy to confuse the essence of what you're doing with the tools that you use."

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