Queen’s University School of Computing:

THE BEGINNING

Compiled by Professor Emeritus Bob Crawford – May 2015

 

CONTEXT

By the early 1960’s, computing was gaining prominence both as an essential research tool for scientists and as an important element of business operations. And there began the notion that computing science might well be an academic discipline in its own right. Expertise was sought to run a Computing Centre at Queen’s in support of both academia and administration, and Mers Kutt [1] and Beatrice Worsley [2] were hired. A snapshot of the state of things in 1965 is found is the 1965-66 Arts & Science Calendar. There are no courses listed, or any mention of computing in the academic section of the calendar; there is a brief entry for a service that is provided [p 29]:

Computing Centre
IBM 1620 Model 2 digital computer with 40,000 digit core memory and 2 million digit disk drive storage unit; card and paper tape.
Arrangements may be made for undergraduates, experienced in programming, to learn to operate the computer.

By 1966 there was clear recognition of the need to offer courses in this area. In three successive Arts & Science Calendars, beginning with 1966-67, there was an entry in the Departments and Courses section for Computer Science. This did not have departmental status and no degree programs were listed. The masthead for each of these three years reads:

Computer Science
ProfessorM. Kutt
Associate ProfessorBeatrice H. Worsley
Assistant ProfessorJ. H. Lindsay

Courses offered:
Computer Science – 311 Numerical Methods and Computer Programming 1
Computer Science – 312 Numerical Methods and Computer Programming 2
Computer Science – 420 (changed to 321 in 1969) – Programming Digital Computers
Computer Science – 421 Information Processing

During these years, computing was discussed at Faculty Boards and by various other committees. Of particular note is the Arts & Science Faculty Board of January 20, 1967. There is reference to the fact that in November 1964 Arts & Science referred to Senate a proposal regarding a Board of Computer Control. The minutes for January 1967 read:

Mr Whalley expressed the view that the whole question of computers was one of grave and comprehensive academic importance and that there was a need for an inter-faculty group of an academic character to represent the individuals and departments interested in the computer. Mr. Kutt, the Director of the Computer Centre, was invited by the Chairman to comment. He said that the Advisory Computer Committee appointed by the Principal to represent the faculties was considering the broad aspects of computer science and expected to present some recommendations within the next few months.

Moved and carried:
“that a committee of the Faculty Board be established to determine what the Arts & Science Faculty should expect from the Computer Centre, and that its membership consist of Messrs. Kutt, Coleman, Whalley, Conkie, and Fraser.”

Subsequently, at its March 17, 1967 meeting, Arts & Science Faculty Board was informed that the committee struck January 20th was called the Computer Committee, and noted that:

The Committee is to consider how the computer affected the Arts & Science Faculty Board and to examine the possibility of a program in Computer Science [pp 145-146].

Three months later, at the June 8, 1967 meeting of the Arts & Science Faculty Board, a progress report from the Computer Committee refers to The Senate Committee on Computing as being “actively engaged in a related study”, and notes that they had communicated with that committee. This report states:

The Committee had felt that discussion by the Faculty Board would be helpful, particularly if it were determined that Computer Science should become an academic discipline, whereupon the appropriateness of its inclusion as such in the Faculty of Arts and Science would have to be determined [pp 267-268].

 

FORMATION

It fell to the Senate to ultimately deal with this matter. A Senate Committee on Computing had been struck, and at the Senate meeting of November 17, 1967 (as forecast by Mers Kutt at Arts & Science faculty Board earlier that year) they presented a lengthy report [pp 131, 139-170], which was discussed and tabled. There were two divisions to this report.

A. Computing Centre (7 recommendations)
B. Computing and Information Science (6 recommendations)

Part A recommendations were easily passed at the following Senate meeting. Part B was considered over the course of three meetings. To appreciate the prescience of those involved in this committee, consider the brief text in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Extract from the body of the Report of the Senate Committee on Computing, submitted to Senate, November 17, 1967 [p 158]
Future Objectives in Computing and Information Science at Queen’s University
The development in recent years of the electronic computer has emphasized the importance of certain fields of academic study. These include Computing Science, which is a broad subject dealing with the application of computers to many types of problems, and Information Science. We are persuaded that these are “respectable” academic subjects, that is subjects of a fundamental nature whose study and teaching are proper subjects for a university, both because of their importance in human society and because of the advanced level at which they must be studied.

The minutes of the Senate meeting of November 17, 1967 state:

Professor Love, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Computing, presented the Recommendations of the report clause by clause, … giving particular attention to the suggestion that immediate steps be taken to establish an academic department of Computing and Information Science…

On December 5, 1967 a special meeting of the Senate was convened to discuss Part B of the Report of the Senate Committee on Computing, as tabled at the November 17th meeting. See Figure 2. Professor Love moved the acceptance of Section B of the Report and presented three amendments by the Committee on Computing based on comments received. These related to three paragraphs in the body of the report, not to the recommendations. One of these was the endorsing of “a broad definition of Information Science as adapted in an American University.”

Figure 2
Summary of the Principal Recommendations on Page 3 of the Senate Committee on Computing Report of 30 October 1967, as brought to the Senate meeting of 17 November 1967 [p 142].

B. Computing and Information Science

  1. That Computing and Information Science be recognized as a suitable field for teaching and research at the University level.
  2. That Queen’s university accept responsibility for educating, through teaching and research, people needed in Canada for advanced work in Computing and Information Science and teachers who will provide training in programming and other computing skills in schools and community colleges.
  3. That immediate steps be taken to establish an academic Department of Computing and Information Science at Queen’s University. The Department would be responsible for research and for undergraduate and graduate teaching.
  4. That the immediate objectives of the Department be:
    1. to ensure that every person educated at Queen’s has an opportunity to learn of the significance of the computer,
    2. to undertake teaching and research in the application of computing to other disciplines,
    3. to provide intensive education (i.e. through teaching and research) of specialists in Computing and Information Science.
  5. That the Head of the Department of Computing and Information Science be a scholar of high repute and not necessarily a member of the staff of the Computing Centre. Members of the staff of the academic Department might hold cross appointments in the Computing Centre or in other departments of the University. The terms of appointment in such cases should be flexible.
  6. That initially the Department of Computing and Information Science be in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

The Report was approved, with the exception of Paragraph B(6), which was referred to the next meeting of Senate to enable further representation to be made to Senate.

Thus, at its meeting of February 26, 1968, Senate resumed discussion of Paragraph B(6) of the Report of the Senate Committee on Computing. [pp 363-364, 383-384]

“that initially the Department of Computing and Information Science be in the Faculty of Arts & Science.”

Submissions on this matter had been received from Applied Science and from Arts & Science, each arguing strongly for the new Department to be in their Faculty. The arguments made on both sides were cogent and compelling. The minutes also convey some passion in this matter.

In the end, the motion passed, with eleven in favour, four against. This decision, that they were to have this new department in their Faculty, was reported to the Arts & Science Faculty Board at its meeting of May 17, 1968.

 

IMPLEMENTATION

Four months after this Senate decision, on July 1, 1968, Principal R. A. Corry struck an Advisory Committee on Computing & Information Science. Its terms of reference included:

  • coordinating the teaching of courses in Computing & Information Science –current ones and new ones
  • planning the new department
  • searching for a permanent head of the department
  • recruiting faculty for the new department, possibly cross-appointed with existing departments

The committee met a total of ten times over the next eight months. The Chairman of the Committee was C.E. Law, and during this year he was also referred to as the Acting Head of this Department in the making.

Some of the initial work of this committee is seen in a September 20, 1968 eleven-page draft from C.E. Law titled, Department of Computing & Information Science – Statement of Policy, which states in part:

It has been recommended by the Senate Committee (30 October 1967, with amendments 24 November 1967, 5 December 1967) and accepted by the Senate, that Queen’s should accept responsibility for educating, through teaching and research, people needed in Canada for advanced work in Computing and Information Science, and teachers who will provide training in programming and other computing skills in schools and community colleges. It has been further recommended by the Senate Committee that the immediate objective of the Department should be:

  1. to ensure that every person at Queen’s has the opportunity to learn of the significance of the computer,
  2. to undertake teaching and research in the application of computing to other disciplines,
  3. to provide intensive education (i.e., through teaching and research) of specialists in Computing and Information Science.

Following its 8th meeting on 29 Jan 1969, Chairman Law wrote to Principal John Deutsch [installed as Principal in September 1968] suggesting that the Committee should be dissolved since Dr. S. Baxter (Director of the National Research Council Computing Centre) had been appointed Head of the Department of Computing & Information Science effective July 1, 1969.

The considerable work of this committee is evident in the February 14, 1969 Arts & Science Faculty Board Agenda Papers [pp 152-163]. A report Department of Computing & Information Science; Summary of Policy re the Proposed Programme of Courses from C. E. Law, Professor/Acting Head, Department of Computing & Information Science is tabled. Motions are referred to the Faculty of Arts & Science Curriculum Committee to approve, specifically:

  • general policies of the Department of Computing & Information Science
  • overall program
  • undergraduate minor
  • undergraduate courses

This same report went to the March 1969 meeting of Senate (pp 471, 518-530) at which it was moved, seconded and agreed,

“that the proposal for a new Graduate Program offering a Master’s Degree and a diploma in Computing and Information Science be approved for appraisal.”

 

CULMINATION

In the context of an institution with a total full-time enrolment that had swelled to 7,400 (up 650 students from the previous fall), in the fall of 1969 the Department of Computing & Information Science began offering courses and programs to students. The 1969-70 Arts & Science calendar reflects this with the entry in Figure 3.

Figure 3
Arts & Science Calendar 1969-70 [pp 80-87]
Computing & Information Science
Professor & HeadS.D. Baxter
ProfessorC.E. Law
Assoc Professor D.J. McConalogue
 Beatrice H. Worsley
Asst Professor J. H. Lindsay
 I. A. Macleod

Department Code 22
The Department is closely allied with the Computing Centre.

(Twenty-two courses are listed.)

The Department was housed in temporary quarters in the Rideau Building, itself designated as a temporary structure (yet continuing in 2015 as the permanent home of Physical Plant Services). The location of this building at 207 Stuart St, led to many department lunchtimes at the nearby Faculty Club (now the University Club), with its (at that time) basement shuffleboard and snooker tables, providing for excellent bonding by the members of this new department.

A sore point in the early years was the written material and the verbiage that abbreviated the Department name to “DOCIS”. What other academic department at Queen’s included the “D” for “Department” as part of its acronym? Members of the Department consistently wrote “C&IS” where abbreviation was required.

 

EARLY YEARS

The Department saw many changes over its first three years. New faculty were hired. McConalogue left; Worsley went on leave for 1971-72 during which time she tragically passed away; Baxter became ill, resigned his position, and moved back to Ottawa.

In the summer of 1972 the Department moved into the fifth floor of the newly completed Goodwin Hall. Interesting background to this comes from the Board of Trustees meeting of May 9/10, 1969,

Notes re Capital Programme (p 68)
For the past three years or so our Department of Physical Plant has been advocating the multi purpose, modular design for buildings. This concept has been accepted by the Board of Trustees and is the basis for the design of the new building in which the Mining Department will be the first tenant. (i.e., Goodwin Hall)

In 1969-70, the Calendar notes that degree programs/concentrations required consultation with the Department. By the time of the 1970-71 Calendar, these were clearly laid out.

In 1970 the University moved to numeric prefixes for courses, so that every course in the calendar was listed in the form “C&IS 261* (22-261*)”. This notation continued in the following calendar, and by the 1971-72 calendar, strictly the numerical notation was used.

In what were fast-moving times with regard to computing, one aspect in which particularly rapid change was seen was the relationship between Computing Services and the academic Department. Figure 4 provides quotations from publications for 1968, 1969 and 1970. The fledgling department had quickly weaned itself from dependence on, or any sort of symbiotic relationship with, Computing Services.

Figure 4
Relationship of Computer Services and The Department of Computing & Information Science
“JOINED AT THE HIP”
1968 – Advisory Committee on Computing & Information Science.
The location of the new department both temporary and permanent was discussed and it was agreed that generally speaking it was desirable for the Department to be in close proximity to the Computing Centre.
It was agreed that the Director of the Computer Centre should be ex-officio a member of the Department.

“STILL HOLDING HANDS”
1969-70 Arts & Science Calendar
Affiliation with the Computing Centre:
Although administratively separate from the Computing Centre, the department is closely allied with the Centre. Practical work involves use of the Computing Centre’s major installation, and several members of staff hold cross-appointments. For further details consult the DOCIS Manual, which is prepared and maintained by the Department.

“SEPARATE LIVES”
1970-71 Arts & Science Calendar
Computing Facilities
The University Computing Centre is administratively separate from the Department of Computing and Information Science. The facilities of the Centre are available to the Department.

In many ways, by 1972 the shakedown period for the Department was complete. Cec Law was occupied by his full-time role as Director of the Canadian Institute of Guided Ground Transport. John Lindsay combined teaching in the school with his Computing Centre responsibilities until 1981, at which time he took a position at RMC. All the other faculty members who are listed in the 1972-73 Arts & Science Calendar (see Figure 5) remained for more than twenty years[3].

It would be hard for a new generation to fully appreciate how the work of contemplating, planning, and bringing to fruition the birth of a new academic department could be done in an era without word processing, e-mail, cell phones and the internet. But a visionary group worked with the tools available and made this happen. Queen’s University owes them a debt of gratitude.

Figure 5
Arts & Science Calendar 1972-73 [pp 85-92]

Computing & Information Science
HeadM. Levison
ProfessorC.E. Law
Assoc ProfessorD.A. Jardine
M. Levison
Asst ProfessorR.G. Crawford
 M.A. Jenkins
 J. H. Lindsay
 G. H. MacEwen
 I. A. Macleod
 R.D. Tennent

Department Code 22

Degree Programs:
Bachelor of Arts Three-Year Program – Minor Concentration
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Four-Year Program – Medial Concentration
Bachelor of Science (Honours) four-Year Program – Fourteen-course Concentration

Computing Facilities:
The Department possesses its own computer, a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11, which may be used by undergraduate students.

Courses: 24 courses are listed

 

POSTSCRIPT

The Department of Computing & Information Science continued to grow. Some 78 names have graced the department masthead over these years. Seventeen of these were cross-appointed, from other units at Queen’s or from other institutions, and four were visiting faculty. Six were adjunct faculty. More often than not, those who came to the Department stayed. Twenty-seven faculty were, or still are, part of the Department for fifteen years or longer. Ten of these served the Department for thirty years or longer, two of them for over forty years.

At its meeting of April 4, 2002, Senate approved,

the creation of a School of Computing in the Faculty of Arts & Science, subject to ratification by the Board of Trustees. [p.208]

This ratification was forthcoming at the Board of Trustees meeting of May 10, 2002. At the April 2002 Senate meeting, they also approved the new degree of Bachelor of Computing with the designation B.Cmp. Though there was little or no change in the day to day rhythm of the unit, the Department of Computing & Information Science had become the School of Computing. The School continued as a unit within the Faculty of Arts & Science, but now admitted undergraduates directly to programs leading to the Bachelor of Computing degree. The first Bachelor of Computing students were enrolled in September 2003.

Now thought is being given to 50th anniversary celebrations in 2019. Will we hear of these through printed notice? e-mail? text? twitter? … or through some communication media as yet unknown…

 

REFERENCES

  • Arts & Science Calendar, Queen’s University, 1966-67 through 2009-2010, Queen’s University Archives.
  • Arts & Science Calendar, Queen’s University, 2010-2011 through 2014-2015, on-line.
  • Arts & Science Faculty Board, Queen’s University, Agenda & Minutes, 1967 through 1970, Queen’s University Archives.
  • Board of Trustees, Queen’s University, Agenda & Minutes, 1967 and 1968 Queen’s University Archives.
  • IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, April-June 2003
  • IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Oct-Dec 2003.
  • Personal Correspondence with S. Akl, J. Cordy, J. Glasgow, M. Levison, R. Tennent
  • School of Computing, Queen’s University web site, retrieved February 2015 from http://www.cs.queensu.ca.
  • Senate, Queen’s University, Agenda & Minutes, 1967 through 1968, 2002, Queen’s University Archives.
  • Worsley papers, Queen’s Archives, coll 1053, Box 4, file 4, etc.

 


[1] For biographical information on Mers Kutt, see IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, April-June 2003.

[2] For biographical information on Beatrice Worsley, see IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Oct-Dec 2003.

[3] Of the other faculty members in place in 1972, Don Jardine retired in 1994, Ian Macleod was tragically killed walking home along Union St on a snowy day in 1997, Mike Jenkins retired in 1997, Glenn MacEwen in 1999, Michael Levison in 2004, Bob Crawford in 2013, and Bob Tennent in 2015.