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About this book

It has been upon the shoulders of giants that the modern world has been forged. This accessible compendium presents an insight into the great minds responsible for the technology which has transformed our lives. Each pioneer is introduced with a brief biography, followed by a concise account of their key contributions to their discipline. The selection covers a broad spread of historical and contemporary figures from theoreticians to entrepreneurs, highlighting the richness of the field of computing. Suitable for the general reader, this concise and easy-to-read reference will be of interest to anyone curious about the inspiring men and women who have shaped the field of computer science.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Background

Computers are an integral part of modern society and new technology has transformed the world. Communication today may be conducted using text messaging, email, mobile phones and video calls over the Internet using Skype. In the past, communication involved writing letters, sending telegrams or using the home telephones. Today, communication is instantaneous between people, and the new technology has transformed the world into a global village. The developments in computers and information technology have allowed business to be conducted in a global market.

Gerard O’Regan

Chapter 2. Howard Aiken

Howard Aiken made several important contributions to the early computing field. He showed that a large calculating machine could be built that would provide speedy solutions to mathematical problems. He also made important contributions to early computer science education.

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Chapter 3. Gene Amdahl

Gene Amdahl is an American computer scientist and entrepreneur. He was the founder of Amdahl Corporation, which became a major rival to IBM in the mainframe market during the 1970s and 1980s.

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Chapter 4. Archimedes

Archimedes was a Hellenistic mathematician, astronomer, inventor and engineer. He was born in Syracuse around 287 B.C., and he was a leading scientist and inventor in the Greco-Roman world. He is credited with designing several innovative machines (Syracuse is located on the island of Sicily in Southern Italy. It was an independent Greek city state in the third century B.C.).

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Chapter 5. John Atanasoff

John Vincent Atanasoff was born in New York in 1903. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Florida and did a Master’s in mathematics at Iowa State College. He earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1930 and became an assistant professor at Iowa State College, where he taught mathematics and physics.

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Chapter 6. Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage is considered (along with George Boole) to be one of the grandfathers of computing. He made contributions to several areas including mathematics, statistics, astronomy, philosophy, railways and lighthouses. He founded the British Statistical Society and the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Chapter 7. John Backus

John Backus was an American computer scientist and language designer. He made important contributions to the development of the


programming language, and he also developed Backus-Naur Form (BNF), which is a widely used notation for expressing the syntax of a programming language.

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Chapter 8. Gordon Bell

Gordon Bell was vice president of Research and Development at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) from 1960 to 1983. He was the architect of various PDP computers and led the development of the VAX series of computers. He has been involved in the design of around 30 microprocessors.

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Chapter 9. Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee is a British computer scientist and the inventor of the World Wide Web. He was born in London in 1955 and obtained a degree in physics in 1976 from Oxford University. Both his parents had been involved in the programming of the Ferranti Mark I computer in the 1950s.

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Chapter 10. Dines Bjørner

Dines Bjørner is a Danish computer scientist who has made important contributions to software engineering and formal methods. He developed the Vienna Development Method (VDM) with Cliff Jones at the IBM laboratory in Vienna. VDM was one of the earliest formal methods, and it is used to increase confidence in the correctness of software in academia and industry. He was also involved in the development of the RAISE (Rigorous Approach to Industrial Software Engineering) method and set of tools.

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Chapter 11. George Boole

Boole was born in Lincoln, England, in 1815. His father (a cobbler who was interested in mathematics and optical instruments) taught him mathematics and showed him how to make optical instruments. George Boole inherited his father’s interest in knowledge and was self-taught in mathematics and Greek. He taught in various schools near Lincoln and developed his mathematical knowledge by working his way through Newton’s Principia, as well as applying himself to the work of mathematicians such as Laplace and Lagrange.

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Chapter 12. Fred Brooks

Fred Brooks is an American computer scientist who has made important contributions to software engineering and project management. He is famous for project managing the IBM/360 project, and his formulation of Brooks’ law which states that adding more people to a project that is running late makes the project even later.

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Chapter 13. Vannevar Bush

Vannevar Bush was an American scientist who developed the differential analyzer at MIT. He played a leading role in shaping American policy on scientific research and in developing close links between academia and the military. He was the author of a famous article “As we may think” in 1945, which outlined a vision of the Internet and the World Wide Web.

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Chapter 14. Vint Cerf

Vint Cerf is an American computer scientist who is regarded (with Robert Kahn) as one of the fathers of the Internet. He is currently vice president and Internet Evangelist with Google.

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Chapter 15. Alonzo Church

Alonzo Church was an American mathematician and logician who made important contributions to mathematical logic and to theoretical computer science. He developed the lambda calculus in the 1930s as a tool to study computability, and he showed that anything that is computable is computable by the lambda calculus. He proved that the first-order logic is


(i.e. there is no algorithm to determine whether an arbitrary mathematical proposition is true or false). He founded the

Journal of Symbolic Logic

in 1936.

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Chapter 16. Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist and philosopher and is considered the father of linguistics. He made important contributions to linguistics and to the theory of grammars, and his work has had a major influence on language design and the theory of programming languages.

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Chapter 17. Edgar Codd

Codd was a British mathematician, computer scientist and IBM researcher who developed the

relational database model

in 1970. The relational model is the standard way that information is organized and retrieved from computers, and relational databases are at the heart of systems ranging from hospitals’ patient records to airline flight and schedule information.

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Chapter 18. René Descartes

René Descartes was an influential French mathematician and philosopher. He was born in a village in the Loire Valley in France in 1596 and studied law at the University of Poitiers. He never practised as a lawyer and instead served Prince Maurice of Nassau in the Netherlands. He became interested in mathematics and later invented the Cartesian coordinate system that is used in plane geometry and algebra.

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Chapter 19. Tom DeMarco

DeMarco is an American computer scientist, software engineer and author who has made important contributions to project management and software engineering. He was one of the developers of structured analysis in the 1980s.

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Chapter 20. Edsger Dijkstra

Edsger Dijkstra was a famous Dutch computer scientist who made important contributions to language development, operating systems, graph theory and formal program development.

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Chapter 21. George Devol

George Devol was a prolific American inventor and is regarded (with Joseph Engelberger) as one of the fathers of robotics. He was awarded the patent for the first industrial robot (


), and he played an important role in the foundation of the modern robotics industry.

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Chapter 22. Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison is an American entrepreneur and the co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Oracle Corporation. This is one of the leading enterprise software companies in the world and is well-known for its database management products. It also produces enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software.

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Chapter 23. Don Estridge

Philip Donald Estridge is known as the

father of the IBM PC

. He led the development of the original IBM personal computer, which revolutionized the computer industry. It led to millions of computers in business offices and homes, and today, personal computers and laptops are used extensively around the world.

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Chapter 24. Michael Fagan

Michael Fagan is the CEO of Michael Fagan Associates, and the creator of the Fagan Inspection and Defect-Free Process. He created the Fagan inspection process while he was a Development Manager with IBM in the 1970s. This process helps organizations to improve software quality, to reduce cycle time, to reduce costs and to improve productivity.

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Chapter 25. Tommy Flowers

Tommy Flowers was a British engineer who made important contributions to breaking the Lorenz codes during the Second World War. He led the team that designed and built Colossus, which was one of the earliest electronic computers. The machine was designed to decode the top-level encrypted German military communication sent by German High Command to its commanders in the field. This provided British and American Intelligence with information on German military plans around the D-Day invasion and later battles and helped to ensure the success of the Normandy landings and the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany.

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Chapter 26. Robert Floyd

Robert Floyd was an American computer scientist who made important contributions to the theory of parsing and early compilers, to the semantics of programming languages and to the development of methodologies for the creation of efficient and reliable software.

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Chapter 27. Bill Gates

Bill Gates is an American entrepreneur, computer programmer and philanthropist. He is the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Microsoft Corporation, a company that he co-founded with Paul Allen. He is currently the chairman of the board of the company.

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Chapter 28. James Gosling

James Gosling is a Canadian computer scientist who is regarded as the father of the Java programming language. Gosling, Patrick Naughton and others at Sun Microsystems designed the language and implemented the original compiler and virtual machine. The language was originally called “Oak”, but it was renamed to “Java” in 1995. It is a popular language for developing application software and may be deployed in a cross-platform computing environment.

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Chapter 29. C.A.R. Hoare

Charles Anthony Richard (C.A.R. or Tony) Hoare is a British computer scientist who has made fundamental contributions to computing including the quicksort algorithm, the axiomatic approach to program semantics and programming constructs for concurrency.

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Chapter 30. Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith was an American statistician, inventor and entrepreneur. He founded a tabulating machine company in 1896, and this company later merged with another company to become the Computing Tabulating Recording Company. This company was renamed to International Business Machines (IBM) in 1911.

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Chapter 31. Watts Humphrey

Watts Humphrey was an American software engineer and vice president of technical development at IBM. He made important contributions to the software engineering field and was known as the

father of software quality

. He dedicated much of his career to addressing the problems of software development including schedule delays, cost overruns, software quality and productivity.

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Chapter 32. Kenneth Iverson

Kenneth Iverson was a Canadian computer scientist who developed the APL programming language, and he made important contributions to mathematical notation and programming language theory.

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Chapter 33. Ivar Jacobson

Ivar Jacobson is a Swedish computer scientist who is regarded as one of the fathers of components and component architecture. He is well-known for his work on SDL; use cases, use case driven development; the unified modeling language (UML); the Rational Unified Process (RUP); and aspect-oriented software development.

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Chapter 34. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was an American entrepreneur and inventor. He was the co-founder (with Steve Wozniak) of Apple computers in 1976 and served as the chairman and CEO of the company. He resigned from Apple in the mid-1980s following disagreements at board level on the appropriate direction for the company, and he founded NeXT, Inc., and later Pixar Animation Studios. He was the CEO of both of these successful companies, and he returned to Apple (following its takeover of NeXT) and transformed Apple to a highly successful and innovative company.

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Chapter 35. Gary Kildall

Gary Kildall was an American computer scientist and entrepreneur and the founder of Digital Research, Inc. (DRI). He is famous for his work on developing the first microprocessor disc operating system and for developing the first programming language and compiler for a microprocessor. His CP/M disc operating system was the basis for the operating system used on the IBM personal computer, and if things had turned out differently at the time, his company, Digital Research, Inc., could well have been Microsoft.

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Chapter 36. Donald Knuth

Donald Ervin Knuth is an American computer scientist, and he is known as the

father of the analysis of algorithms

. He has made important contributions to theoretical computer science, to the design of programming languages and to the

art of computer programming

through his series of well-known books. He is the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system.

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Chapter 37. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher, mathematician and inventor in the field of mechanical calculators. He developed the binary number system used in digital computers and invented the calculus independently of Sir Isaac Newton. He was embroiled in a bitter dispute towards the end of his life with Newton, as to who developed the calculus first.

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Chapter 38. Ada Lovelace

Lady Augusta Ada Byron was an English mathematician who collaborated with Babbage on applications for the analytic engine. She is considered the world’s first programmer, and the Ada programming language is named in her honour.

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Chapter 39. John McCarthy

John McCarthy was an American computer scientist and the father of the artificial intelligence (AI) field. The term

artificial intelligence

was coined by McCarthy in 1955, and he was one of the founders of the field. He developed the Lisp programming language, which is one of the oldest programming languages and remains a popular language in the AI field. He served on the international committee that developed the influential Algol programming language. He did some early work on chess playing programs, and he participated in an international match against rivals in Russia conducted via telegraph. He developed the important concept of time-sharing computer systems in the late 1950s/early 1960s. He has also worked on proving that computer programs meet their specifications.

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Chapter 40. John Mauchly

John Mauchly was an American physicist and engineer who made important contributions to the computing field. He is famous for his work on the design and development of the ENIAC computer, which was one of the earliest digital computers. He was also involved in the design of the EDVAC computer, and he later set up the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation with Presper Eckert. This company pioneered some fundamental computer concepts and later developed the UNIVAC computer.

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Chapter 41. Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky is an American cognitive scientist, a pioneer of robotics and neural networks, author, inventor and one of the founders of the artificial intelligence field. He is Toshiba professor of media arts and sciences and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Chapter 42. Gordon Moore

Gordon Moore is an American computer scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He was a co-founder (with Robert Noyce) of Intel Corporation in 1968, and he served initially as the executive vice president of the company. He was chief executive officer (CEO) of Intel from 1975 to 1987. He has made important contributions to the semiconductor field and is famous for his articulation of


s law

in 1965. His initial formulation of the law predicted that the number of transistors that could be placed on a computer chip (i.e. the transistor density) would double every year. He revised his law in 1975 to state that the transistor density will double roughly every 2 years. His law has proved to be quite accurate, as the semiconductor industry has developed more and more powerful chips at lower costs.

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Chapter 43. Grace Murray Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was an American mathematician, computer scientist, computer pioneer and an American Navy naval officer. She was one of the earliest computer programmers, and she programmed the Harvard Mark I computer and its successors. She played an important role in the development of programming languages and compilers, programming language constructs, data processing and the COBOL programming language.

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Chapter 44. John von Neumann

John von Neumann was a Hungarian/American mathematician who made fundamental contributions to mathematics, physics, set theory, computer science, economics and quantum mechanics.

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Chapter 45. Ken Olsen

Kenneth Harry Olsen was an American engineer and entrepreneur who co-founded Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) with Harlan Anderson. DEC dominated the minicomputer era from the 1960s to 1980s, with its PDP and VAX series of computers.

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Chapter 46. David Parnas

David Lorge Parnas has been influential in the computing field, and his ideas on the specification, design, implementation, maintenance and documentation of computer software remain relevant today. He has won numerous awards (including ACM best paper award in 1979, two most influential paper awards from ICSE in 1978 and 1984, the ACM SigSoft outstanding researcher award in 1998 and an honorary doctorate from the ETH in Zurich and the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium) for his contribution to computer science. Software engineers today continue to use his ideas in their work.

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Chapter 47. Dennis Ritchie

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie was an American computer scientist who is famous for developing the C programming language at Bell Labs. He also codeveloped the UNIX operating system with Ken Thompson.

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Chapter 48. Dana Scott

Dana Scott has made important contributions to theoretical computer science, including automata theory, and the theory of programming language semantics. He has also contributed to modal logic, topology and category theory.

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Chapter 49. John Searle

John Searle has made important contributions to the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language and artificial intelligence (AI). He has criticized the view that artificial intelligence research will lead to conscious intelligent machines, and his

Chinese Room thought experiment

is a famous rebuttal of strong AI. He argues that computation, in itself, is not sufficient for an entity to be judged to be intelligent and conscious.

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Chapter 50. Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon was an American mathematician and engineer who made fundamental contributions to computing. He was the first person to see the applicability of Boolean algebra to simplify the design of circuits and telephone routing switches. He showed that Boole’s symbolic logic developed in the nineteenth century provided the perfect mathematical model for switching theory and for the subsequent design of digital circuits and computers.

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Chapter 51. William Shockley

William Shockley is famous for his invention of the transistor, and his contributions to the semiconductor field. The transistor was invented at Bell Labs by Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain, and they were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1956 for their invention. Shockley later became the director of Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, and he was involved in research and development of new transistors and other semiconductor devices.

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Chapter 52. Richard Stallman

Richard Matthew Stallman is an American computer scientist who is famous as the

prophet of the free software movement

. He is president of the

Free Software Foundation

and has played a key role promoting the rights and freedom of software end users to use, copy and modify software. The existing intellectual property rights for software are quite stringent, and Stallman has sought ways to maximize freedom for software end users.

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Chapter 53. Bjarne Stroustrup

Bjarne Stroustrup is a Danish computer scientist who is famous for designing and developing the C++ programming language. He is the author of several books on C++ and has many other publications. C++ is a widely used object-oriented language.

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Chapter 54. Alan Turing

Alan Mathison Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist who made fundamental contributions to mathematics and computer science. These include contributions to computability with his theoretical Turing machine, cryptography and breaking the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, the design of the ACE machine at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the development of software for the Manchester Mark I and contributions to the emerging field of artificial intelligence.

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Chapter 55. Thomas Watson Sr. and Jr.

Thomas Watson Sr. and Jr. are famous past presidents of International Business Machine (IBM). Thomas Watson Sr. transformed IBM into an international company that sold punched card tabulating machines, and Thomas Watson Jr. transformed IBM to an international computer company building and selling computers around the world. IBM became the dominant player in the computer industry.

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Chapter 56. Joseph Weizenbaum

Joseph Weizenbaum was a German-American computer scientist who is famous for his development of the


program in 1966 and for his views on the ethics of artificial intelligence. He became sceptical of artificial intelligence and a leading critic of the AI field following the response of users to the


program. Many users felt that they were communicating with an empathic psychologist rather than a machine. He was professor emeritus of computer science at MIT, and he also held academic positions at several other universities including Harvard, Stanford, the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Hamburg.

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Chapter 57. Frederick Williams

Sir Frederick Williams is famous for his work with Tom Kilburn on the use of cathode-ray tubes as an information storage device. This was known as the



Kilburn tube

, and it was the first form of random access memory. They then developed the

first stored program digital electronic computer

(the Manchester “Baby”) in 1947.

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Chapter 58. Niklaus Wirth

Niklaus Wirth has made important contributions to software engineering and to the design of programming languages. He published the paper “Program development by stepwise refinement” and has designed and developed several programming languages including Pascal, Modula-2 and Oberon.

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Chapter 59. Ed Yourdon

Edward Nash Yourdon is an American pioneer in software engineering methodologies and one of the leading developers of the structured analysis and design methods in the 1970s. He has also made important contributions to object-oriented analysis and design methods. He is a well-known international computer consultant specializing in project management, software engineering methodologies and web technologies. He is the author of over 20 books in the computing field.

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Chapter 60. Konrad Zuse

Konrad Zuse is considered

the father of the computer

in Germany, as he built the world’s first programmable machine (the Z3) in 1941.

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Chapter 61. Epilogue

This book has attempted to give a flavour of the work of a selection of those who have made important contributions to the computing field. It is not feasible, due to space constraints, to consider all those who merit inclusion. We gave a short account of each pivotal pioneer and included brief biographical information and a concise account of their contribution.

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