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The Dawn of Software Engineering: from Turing to Dijkstra

front cover The Dawn of Software Engineering

The Dawn of Software Engineering is a rich and fascinating account of the time when software engineering was a compelling intellectual discipline at the center of computer science.”

John C. Reynolds, CMU

Contrary to what many believe, Alan Turing’s legacy lies more in programming after his death than in computer building during his lifetime. Turing’s ‘universal machine’ helped programming language designers see the wood for the trees. Later, problems unsolvable with a computer influenced experienced programmers, including Edsger W. Dijkstra.

Dijkstra’s pioneering work shows that both unsolvability & aesthetics have practical relevance in software engineering. But to what extent did Dijkstra and others depend on Turing’s accomplishments? This book presents a revealing synthesis for the modern software engineer and, by doing so, deromanticizes Turing’s role in history.

How did the idea of machine independence enter the emerging field of software engineering? What does it have to do with logic? Daylight answers several such questions and discusses them with four Turing award winners: Hoare, Liskov, Wirth, and Naur.

“wonderfully novel, very readable, and most engaging”

Grady Booch, IBM Fellow

“a very deserving contribution to understanding the influence of fundamental results of science onto practice”

Manfred Broy, TUM

Book details

The Dawn of Software Engineering: from Turing to Dijkstra
E.G. Daylight. Edited by K. De Grave.
April 2012
Includes interviews with Tony Hoare, Barbara Liskov, Niklaus Wirth, and Peter Naur.
ISBN 9789491386022
248 pages
9 x 6 inch trade paperback

Available at,,,, etc (Worldwide), (US), Alibris (US/UK), Bookdepository (Worldwide), Foyles (UK), The Nile (AU), and many other bookstores worldwide. If it's not in stock at your favorite bookstore, ask the shopkeeper to order from Ingram (US), Bertrams (UK), or Gardners (UK).

Author bio

Edgar G. Daylight has a Ph.D. in software engineering from Leuven (2006) and an MS in logic from Amsterdam (2009). He is currently a post-doc researcher in the history of computing at Eindhoven University of Technology. He maintains a popular blog on Edsger W. Dijkstra at