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Kennziffer: SH 03/13
Keeping and developing the tradition of Konrad Zuse
“Keeping and developing the tradition of Konrad Zuse“ – this is the guiding principle for every researcher working at Zuse Institute Berlin (ZIB). In this context, ample space is provided. The aim is not to follow established lines of thought as closely as possible, but to emulate his work, his mindset, the pattern underlying Zuse’s work. With this in mind, we at Zuse Institute Berlin consider maintaining Zuse’s tradition as the incorporation of his intrinsic nature into our work.
Pioneers such as Zuse open a door that gives way to a great number of paths. It is this idiosyncrasy of their work that gives them their historic importance. Against this background, it is also possible for mathematicians to be Zuse’s successor, who himself was proud to be an engineer. Mathematics is deeply rooted in Zuse’s work as an engineer. You only have to think of his famous diary note made on June 20, 1937:
“The elementary option is: Check two binary digits for equality. The result is a variable with two values, which is again a binary digit.”
This is a sentence of immense magnitude, a deeply mathematical sentence coined by the engineer Konrad Zuse. This sentence opens up possibilities for both numeric and symbolic computing simultaneously. It illustrates in a nutshell the masterly way in which pioneers tear down narrow boundaries of academic disciplines, thereby opening up new areas.
In his whole life Konrad Zuse was an advocate of interdisciplinarity, such as we are practicing at ZIB. He brought together mathematics (which sometimes tries to solve intrinsically unimportant questions with highest technical brilliance and meticulousness) and engineering sciences (which tend to aim for quick solutions to everyday problems without the required scientific foundation). He is the initiator of the new dialog between mathematicians and engineers from which genuine innovations can arise.
Zuse develop the computer, the mechanical brain, and the turned towards programming languages. This innovation has also changed the mathematics of solution methods. First in Anglo-Saxon countries, later also in Germany, mathematical content is now measured against practical relevance. A hitherto unknown dynamic develops: Application problems motivate the construction of new computers, new computers open up new application problems and change mathematical solution methods. Increasingly complex application problems generate increasingly better solution methods.
With his work Konrad Zuse has thrown a stone into water that is still causing waves today. Here at ZIB, excellent teams of scientists from various disciplines are working together on application-oriented problems from mathematics and computer science. They are solving problems cooperatively and are creating something new – which is exactly what Konrad Zuse would have liked.