CWI Lectures in honour of Adriaan van Wijngaarden (2016)

CWI will organize the 'CWI Lectures in honour of Adriaan van Wijngaarden' on Thursday 3 November 2016 at the Amsterdam Science Park Congress Centre.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Adriaan van Wijngaarden (1916-1987), founder of computer science in the Netherlands and former director of CWI. 2016 is also the 70th founding anniversary of CWI.

We will celebrate these occasions with a special programme in honour of Adriaan van Wijngaarden and his legacy. Several internationally renowned speakers will explore the legacy of Van Wijngaarden in both mathematics and computer science.

The symposium aims at a general academic public and is organized by Paul Klint and Jan Rutten.


09.30 Registration
10.00 Jos Baeten (CWI, director)
10.20 Samson Abramsky (University of Oxford)
11.00 break
11.35 Alexandra Silva (University College London)
12.15 lunch
13.45 Tanja Vos (Open Universiteit)
14.25 Lambert Meertens (former CWI)
15.05 break
15.40 Gilad Bracha (Google)
16.20 Mark Bischof (Kinetic Art, Amsterdam)
17.00 drinks
During the breaks you will have the opportunity to visit a unique exhibition on the early years of the Dutch computer, in which Van Wijngaarden played a prominent role.


Registration is closed per 2 November.


Jos Baeten - Adriaan van Wijngaarden and the start of computer science in the Netherlands

We consider the career and achievements of Adriaan van Wijngaarden (1916-1987). He was closely involved with the first 35 years of the Mathematical Centre in Amsterdam. He led the building of the first computer in the Netherlands, and played an important role in the development of computer science as a science. He was the scientific father or grandfather of many Dutch computer scientists.

Samson Abramsky - From semantics of computation to physics, and back

Quoting from van Wijngaarden’s Wikipedia entry:
"Even though he was trained as an engineer, van Wijngaarden would emphasize and promote the mathematical aspects of computing, first in numerical analysis, then in programming languages and finally in design principles of programming languages.”

Current work in quantum information and computation draws on mathematical tools developed in the study of mathematical foundations of computation, and delivers exciting new challenges and possibilities for computer science. 

New possibilities for quantum advantage sit at the very boundaries of paradox, reminiscent of the way that “paradoxical combinators” and fixpoints are turned into a basis for recursion, as a working tool for the programmer. We shall give an introductory account of some of these developments.

Alexandra Silva - Van Wijngaarden meets Scott : Domain-Theoretic Foundations for Probabilistic Network Programming

Van Wijngaarden promoted mathematical foundations in the design of programming languages. Recent years have seen growing interest in high-level languages for programming networks. But the design of these languages has been largely ad hoc, driven more by the needs of applications and the capabilities of network hardware than by foundational principles.
ProbNetKAT is a system for (quantitative) reasoning about packet switching networks that has a formal denotational semantics. The language is expressive enough to generate continuous distributions, which raises the question of how to effectively compute in the language.
In this talk, we show how a semantics of ProbNetKAT’s using domain theory provides the foundations needed to build a practical implementation. We develop an implementation and show how to solve a variety of practical problems including characterizing the expected performance of traffic engineering schemes based on randomized routing and reasoning probabilistically about properties such as loop freedom. This is joint work with Steffen Smolka, Praveen Kumar, Nate Foster, and Dexter Kozen.

Tanja Vos - A random walk towards better testing

Adriaan van Wijngaarden presented one of the first computers called the ARRA in 1952 to the minister of education and the mayor of Amsterdam. To impress the minister he decided to make it generate random numbers. Van Wijngaarden's team at the Mathematical Centre had ups and downs, but five years later the company Electrologica was founded that commercialised one of the first computers in The Netherlands. In 2014 my research group presented an automated testing tool to the European Commission and we used the same strategy: to make sure it would test something and impress the commissioner our tool would randomly create test sequences. Where will we be in 2020?

Lambert Meertens - ALGOL X and ALGOL Y

ALGOL 60 was an innovative high-level programming language developed by an international group of scientists. Responsibility for ALGOL maintenance was handed in 1962 to the newly founded IFIP Working Group on ALGOL. One of the first activities the Working Group embarked upon was the design of a successor to ALGOL 60, at the time code-named “ALGOL X”. This culminated in the acceptance by the Group, in 1968, of the Report on the Algorithmic Language ALGOL 68.

While officially a product of the Working Group prepared by a committee of “Editors”, ALGOL 68 was very much the brainchild of one man: Aad van Wijngaarden. When published, it was undoubtedly the most advanced and powerful programming language around. And yet, ALGOL 68 never gained widespread use.
Nevertheless, ALGOL 68 has had a strong influence on the design of later languages, such as the wildly successful C programming language and many languages modelled on C.

Gilad Bracha - The Programming Experience: Beyond Language

The traditional academic view of programming is focused on language. However, this approach flies in the face of reality. Programming involves not only language, but libraries, implementation, tooling and community.  A holistic approach that integrates all of these elements is needed. The field of programming language must evolve into the field of programming experience. The talk will present a concrete vision of such an experience, rooted in the history of the field.


Mark Bischof - Variability in kinetic sculpture

Van Wijngaarden was fascinated by randomness and random movement also inspires the work of Mark Bischof. He will give a life demonstration of some of his work and will also show the video Makrokosmos (part of the dvd KINETIC). In an interview he will talk about his motivation and views.

Photo: "The Invention" By Mark Bischof



For further information and questions concerning the CWI Lectures, contact Daniëlle Kollerie (                                                                                                                                                                  

 Photos of CWI Lectures on 3 November 2016: