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ETHistory 1855-2005 | Living memory | Departments | D-INFK | Institutional Development |

Institutional Development



In 1948 the Institute for Applied Mathematics was opened, headed by Prof. Eduard Stiefel. With the Z4 of the German engineer Konrad Zuse and lateron with the proprietary development "Electronic Calculating Machine of the ETH" (ERMETH), the institute offered computing power to the whole ETH Zurich. In 1964, the ETH bought its first commercial computer, a model 1604A from Control Data Corporation. To ensure its reliability of operation and support its users, a new organisational unit was founded: the Computing Center. Thus, the services connected to the computing facilities began to separate from the research activities within the Institute for Applied Mathematics.

Twenty years after the establishment of the Institute for Applied Mathematics, computer science was reorganised and formed a separate unit. The three professors Heinz Rutishauser, Peter Läuchli und Niklaus Wirth founded the Group for Computer Science, with Carl August Zehnder joyning them in 1970. These professors, however, continued to work for their particular departments, the group being only an informal association. In the same year, the idea of an institutional autonomy was for the fist time explicitly expressed. Incited by a questionnaire of the Swiss Science and Technology Council in various disciplines and research branches, the group presented its own catalog of subjects which included a seperate discipline of "Computer Science".

In 1974 the group received an official status at the ETH Zurich by being renamed into the Institute for Computer Science. Thus, the professors for computer science formed a research unit, but a curriculum for the education in their field was still missing.

By the end of the 1970s, "Computer Science" was offered as a minor subject within most of the existing curricula, and additionally a "Computer Science Certificate" could be achieved. The professors now felt ready for another try to set up a separate graduate course in computer science. With great personal commitment they were able to gain the support - or at least weaken oppositions - of the divisions and to address first the Executive Board and then the ETH Board. Towards the end of 1980 the authorities finally consented to the creation of a division for computer science.

"This is academic reform on a grand scale! This is real evoultion of new curricula, guided by inner development of primary sciences, necessary to meet the evolving needs of industry, important for students to offer them new possibilities in handling their future professions."

(ETH president Heinrich Ursprung, press invitation, 4th of May 1981.)

Right away a curriculum was defined as quickly as possible so that the graduate course could be announced for the next beginning of term already. One wanted "to be able to appear as quickly as possible on the job market." At the same time that the Division of Computer Science (IIIC) was being set up, the grammar schools had to be informed about the existence of the new graduate course. In spite of this time pressure the education of the first engineers of computer science started in the fall of 1981. Three years later the first computer science engineers graduated at ETH Zurich.

In 1988, the new building for computer science (IFW) was inaugurated to concentrate the computer science activities at ETH. The existing research unit was divided into four institutes:

At the same time, the Department of Computer Science was set up to coordinate the research activities of the different institutes. In 1996, then, it was merged with the division IIIC into the single organisation of today - the D-INFK - to bring these two areas closer together.

© 2005 ETH Zurich | Credits | July 25, 2005 | !!! This document is stored in the ETH Web archive and is no longer maintained !!!