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In Memoriam: Calvin Carl “kelly” Gotlieb 1921-2016

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Calvin Carl "Kelly" Gotlieb during his 90th birthday lecture at the University of Toronto.

Canada's "Father of Computing," C.C. "Kelly" Gotlieb.

Credit: University of Toronto Arts & Science Advancement Office

Calvin Carl "Kelly" Gotlieb, a Canadian computer scientist and professor who was known as the "Father of Computing" in Canada, passed away on October 16, 2016 at age 95.

Born in 1921, Gotlieb received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1942 from the University of Toronto (UT), the same institution where he received a Master of Arts degree in 1944 and a doctorate in 1947. All three degrees were in the discipline of physics.

In 1948, he co-founded the computation center at UT and was part of the first team in Canada to build computers and to provide computing services. In 1950, he created the first university course on computing in Canada; the following year, he offered the first graduate course. In 1964, Gotlieb helped to found, at UT, the first Canadian graduate department of computer science.

In 1958, he helped to found the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), and served as its president from 1960 to 1961. In 1988, the organization created the C.C. Gotlieb Award in his honor, to recognize members "for outstanding contribution to CIPS through years of substantial efforts for the Society."

Gotlieb recognized early on the importance of computer education, and the need for university-trained computer scientists. "The biggest bottleneck is and will be the lack of trained personnel," he said. "I’m convinced that the emphasis must be placed on technical education. I would like to see business stress to the universities the need for fundamental courses because it is from the universities that these trained people will have to come.

He served as a consultant to the United Nations (UN) on Computer Technology and Development. In 1971, Gotlieb and five other experts produced a report on computing use for developing nations, Application of Computer Technology to Development, at the request of UN secretary-general U Thant.

In 1960, Gotlieb was named Canadian representative to the newly founded International Federation of Information Societies (IFIPS, later known as the International Federation for Information Processing, or IFIP), a global organization for researchers and other professionals working in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).  He founded and was the first chairman of the organization’s  Technical Committee on the Relationship between Computers and Society (TC9, now the Technical Committee on ICT and Society),  a subject he taught as an undergraduate course for over 35 years.

Research by Gotlieb on databases led his appointment in the early 1970s to a Task Force on Privacy for the Canadian government’s departments of Justice and Industry, which yielded to the first Privacy Legislation report in Canada.

Gotlieb taught at UT well into his 80s, as Professor Emeritus in Computer Science.

A long-time ACM member and volunteer, Gotlieb succeeded CACM founding editor-in-chief Alan Perlis in that role in 1962, serving as editor-in-chief for 41 issues of the publication. During his tenure, he recalled, the magazine published work by "no fewer than 10 individuals who would later win ACM’s A.M. Turing Award, five who would become ACM Presidents, and numerous European contributors who were the principal researchers on computers and applications in their own countries (among these latter were Henri Rutishauer, Peter Henrici, Niklaus Wirth, Fritz Bauer, A. Wingjaarden, and Edsger Dijkstra)."

He left CACM for the Journal of the ACM (JACM), which he served as editor-in-chief from 1966 to 1968. Gotlieb noted that contributors to JACM during this period also included "no fewer than 10 authors who won, or would eventually win, the Turing Award," including Alan Perlis, Maurice Wilkes, Richard Hamming, Marvin Minsky, Richard Karp, Steven Cook, Donald Knuth, Wirth, John Hopcroft, and Juris Hartmanis.

Gotlieb served for 20 years as the co-chair of ACM’s Awards Committee, which allows the organization to recognize excellence through its awards for outstanding technical and professional achievements and contributions in computer science and information technology.

In 1994, the same year he was inducted as a Fellow of the ACM, Gotlieb received the first IFIP Isaac L. Auerbach award, presented annually by that organization to an individual whose service to IFIP has exemplified the spirit of IFIP co-founder Isaac L. Auerbach.

In 1995, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, that nation’s highest civilian honor, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2006, Gotlieb was named a founding Fellow of CIPS.  He also had been named a Fellow of the British Computer Society, and received honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, the Université de Montréal, the University of Waterloo, the Technical University of Nova Scotia, and the University of Victoria.

He also was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals, the Canadian Association of Computer Science (CACS/AIC) Lifetime Achievement Award, and the IEEE C.C. Gotlieb Computer Award (established in 2007 and awarded to him in 2012, when it was renamed in his honor).

To Stephen K. Ibaraki,  a founding fellow of CIPS who is co-chair of the ACM Practitioners Board, Gotlieb was "a computing pioneer whose innovations and accomplishments helped lay the foundation of an entire worldwide industry, educational stream, and profession. His contributions are so profound and their impact so diverse and in so many areas that the lasting value cannot be comprehended."

Ibaraki, who had interviewed Gotlieb several times, said Gotlieb’s work in computing "began in 1945, immediately after he returned to the University of Toronto from wartime service (which is a story in itself). He quickly laid the foundation for computing as a science, creating the first credit undergraduate and graduate university programs, the first computational center, and the first applications of computers for business and industry. Imagine in the 1940s, there were no established file systems, data structures, databases, computing methodologies, algorithms, and processes. Nor was there any understanding of the economic, social, security, and privacy impact of computing. Calvin was instrumental in pioneering these and more, authoring or editing many of the first papers and writing leading books on a host of topics."

Gotlieb was married to Canadian science fiction author and poet Phyllis Bloom from 1949 until her death in 2009. They had three children (son Leo Gotlieb, and daughters Margaret Gotlieb and Jane Lipson), as well as four grandchildren (Ethan, Oren, Rachel, and Jacob).

ACM members interested in learning more about Gotlieb can access several interviews with him by Ibaraki in the ACM Learning Center’s listing of podcasts 


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