Harry R. Lewis

Harry Lewis is Gordon McKay Research Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University. He is the coauthor of Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness after the Digital Explosion, coeditor of What Is College For?, and editor of Ideas That Created the Future (MIT Press).

  • Leibniz on Binary

    The Invention of Computer Arithmetic

    Lloyd Strickland and Harry R. Lewis

    The first collection of Leibniz's key writings on the binary system, newly translated, with many previously unpublished in any language.

    The polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) is known for his independent discovery of the calculus in 1675. Another major—although less studied—mathematical contribution by Leibniz is his invention of binary arithmetic, the representational basis for today's digital computing. This book offers the first collection of Leibniz's most important writings on the binary system, all newly translated by the authors with many previously unpublished in any language. Taken together, these thirty-two texts tell the story of binary as Leibniz conceived it, from his first youthful writings on the subject to the mature development and publication of the binary system.

    As befits a scholarly edition, Strickland and Lewis have not only returned to Leibniz's original manuscripts in preparing their translations, but also provided full critical apparatus. In addition to extensive annotations, each text is accompanied by a detailed introductory “headnote” that explains the context and content. Additional mathematical commentaries offer readers deep dives into Leibniz's mathematical thinking. The texts are prefaced by a lengthy and detailed introductory essay, in which Strickland and Lewis trace Leibniz's development of binary, place it in its historical context, and chart its posthumous influence, most notably on shaping our own computer age

    • Paperback $35.00
  • Ideas That Created the Future

    Ideas That Created the Future

    Classic Papers of Computer Science

    Harry R. Lewis

    Classic papers by thinkers ranging from Aristotle and Leibniz to Norbert Wiener and Gordon Moore that chart the evolution of computer science.

    Ideas That Created the Future collects forty-six classic papers in computer science that map the evolution of the field. It covers all aspects of computer science: theory and practice, architectures and algorithms, and logic and software systems, with an emphasis on the period of 1936–1980 but also including important earlier work. Offering papers by thinkers ranging from Aristotle and Leibniz to Alan Turing and Nobert Wiener, the book documents the discoveries and inventions that created today's digital world. A brief essay by volume editor Harry Lewis, offering historical and intellectual context, accompanies each paper.

    Readers will learn that we owe to Aristotle the realization that fixed rules of logic can apply to different phenomena—that logic provides a general framework for reasoning—and that Leibniz recognized the merits of binary notation. They can read Ada Lovelace's notes on L. F. Menabrea's sketch of an analytical engine, George Boole's attempt to capture the rules of reason in mathematical form, David Hilbert's famous 1900 address, “Mathematical Problems,” and Alan Turing's illumination of a metamathematical world. Later papers document the “Cambrian era” of 1950s computer design, Maurice Wilkes's invention of microcode, Grace Hopper's vision of a computer's “education,” Ivan Sutherland's invention of computer graphics at MIT, Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman's pioneering work on encryption, and much more. Lewis's guided tour of a burgeoning field is especially welcome at a time when computer education is increasingly specialized.

    • Paperback $60.00