40 years of Computer Science at the VU (1981-2021)


Setting up Math department



After the appointments of Professor J. Coops (Chemistry), G.J. Sizoo (Physics) and J.F. Koksma (Mathematics) in 1929 and 1930, the Mathematics and Physics Faculty is established.


11 February 1946: Centre for Mathematics is founded (nowadays also known as Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science, CWI).


Mathematics and Physics departments move to a new lab in Buitenveldert.


Reind P. van de Riet receives his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Amsterdam, supervised by Adriaan van Wijngaarden. His thesis is entitled "Algol 60 as Formula Manipulation Language”.


Consultations take place on the founding of the Informatics group under the auspices of Mathematics department with the R.P. van de Riet as candidate for professorship. The goal is to initially appoint Van de Riet professor by special appointment and later appoint him full professor. To be able to do his work, Van de Riet would need to purchase a computer.


1 September 1970 Van de Riet is appointed professor by special appointment. Van de Riet gives his first lecture in WN-S303, the room being too small.


8 October 1971 – Rein Van de Riet delivers his inaugural address: “Mathematics, computers and computer mathematics”. Informatics study programme is led by Mullender, Director of the Mathematics department. In September Dr. Andrew Stuart Tanenbaum joins the department and orders a PDPII/45.

Photo: A. Tanenbaum, 1974: PDP-11-45



1 May 1973, Jacco W. de Bakker is appointed professor for Informatics by special appointment, commissioned for education and research in the field of the programming theory.


Alteration of study programmes is introduced with now the choice between three specialisations: pure mathematics, applied math and informatics. Students who chose Informatics as their major are obliged to follow math courses. Informatics courses offered are: data structures, computer organisation, formal language, company systems. Informatics as specialisation, consisted for a large part of the math courses. This will  remain unchanged for the coming decade.



Andy Tanenbaum appointed lecturer by special appointment.

28 April 1978, PhD defence by P-M. B. Vitanyi: “Lindenmayer systems: structure, languages and growth functions”.

12 May 1978, PhD defence by F. Teer: “Formula manipulation and pascal”.



19 April 1979 – International Informatics congress.



1 June 1980 A. Tanenbaum appointed professor in Informatics.

On 16 June 1980, Minister of Education decides that a number of universities are going to introduce Informatics as an independent study programme. Informatics is going to become a beta programme with mathematics playing a prominent role.