CURRY, Haskell B.

On the Composition of Programs for Automatic Computing. (Project NOL 118b, NR-044-049).

White Oak, Maryland: Naval Ordnance Laboratory, 26 January 1949

4to (268 x 204 mm), 52 leaves. Reproduction of typescript printed on rectos only. Stapled (last leaf detached). Provenance: Computing and Control Collection [Imperial College, London], with 2 stamps and 2 shelfmark stickers on title-page. Pencilled note at top of title-page “Have Prof. Newman and Mr. Turing seen a copy of this?” and pencilled notes on last page (blank).

FIRST EDITION of Curry’s second report on computer programming. During his last three months working at the Ballistic Research Laboratories in 1946 Curry was Acting Chief of the Computing Laboratory; it was during this period that he became involved with the ENIAC computer. As a result of this experience he was a consultant in the field of computing methods to the United States Naval Ordnance Laboratory for about a year from 1948. Curry’s work on programming inverse interpolation on the ENIAC led him to develop a theory of programming. He broke programs down into the simplest possible elementary components and then proposed using program composition to put them together again. This approach has been compared to the later development of compilers for user languages. “The fact that, on the one hand, a logician got involved with ENIAC, and, on the other hand, started to think about developing more efficient ways to program a machine, makes this a very early example of consilience between logic, computing and engineering. Curry’s work in this context has materialized into three reports and one short paper. The first report, in collaboration with Willa Wyatt, describes the set-up of inverse interpolation for the ENIAC. The second and third reports develop the theory of program composition and apply it to the problem of inverse interpolation… Despite the fact that the [second and third] reports were never classified, this work went almost completely unnoticed in the history of programming as well as in the actual history and historiography.” De Mol, Bullynck & Carlé, “Haskell before Haskell: Curry’s Contribution to Programming (1946–1950)” in Lecture Notes in Computer Science series (vol. 6158, pp. 108–117), 2010. Hook & Norman, Origins of cyberspace, do not record any works by Curry.


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