Mission & History

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2015: Celebrating Fifty Years of Changing the World!

Carnegie Mellon is known worldwide for our broad view of computer science. We build upon the strong foundations our history has provided and act quickly to explore new directions. We are fearless in pushing the frontiers of our field. Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive for our research style, educational programs, commitment to diversity, culture and organizational structure. It is the union of all these factors — not just one of them — that truly distinguishes us from other programs.

Since our inception over 50 years ago, the Computer Science Department’s mission has remained steadfast: to lead in computer science research and education that has real-world impact — to push the frontiers of the field and produce the next generation’s leaders.

In the Computer Science Department, we believe that our success rests on these four pillars.

Leadership in education. From the beginning, we designed our programs to prepare our students to be leaders in academia and industry. Our Ph.D. program believes strongly in research from day one, and we consistently monitor our graduate curriculum to ensure that it’s a perfect balance of rigor and flexibility. Our enthusiasm for undergraduate education is unparalleled, and we consistently rank as the top undergraduate computer science program in the country.

The quality and impact of our research. We strive for both high-quality, high impact research, collaboratively and across disciplines. We build things for real users with real-world impact. We think big, taking risks in our research agendas to support uncommon research areas, to start uncharted research areas, and to dream of projects beyond what a single faculty member could accomplish alone.

A supportive culture that brings out the best in people. We live by the Reasonable Person Principle, which relies on mutual trust and support among all faculty, staff and students. We take collective responsibility for our students and faculty, through shared oversight of grad students and faculty processes, like assigning teaching duties. We presume success, and admit or hire only those candidates we expect to excel.

Diversity. The percentage of women out of all students receiving undergraduate degrees in computer science at Carnegie Mellon now hovers around 33 percent — almost twice the national average.


1956: Herbert A. Simon, associate dean of Carnegie Institute of Technology’s business school, joins forces with several faculty members to establish the Computation Center. Alan Perlis (S’42), a Pittsburgh native and MCS graduate, is brought from Purdue University to be the center’s director.

August 1956: The university’s first computer, an IBM 650, is delivered to basement of the Graduate School of Industrial Administration building.

1958: Carnegie Tech offers the first freshman-level computer programming course in the nation. It is taught by Alan Perlis.

1961: The Systems and Communication Sciences program is established. This interdisciplinary program combines computer science, mathematics, psychology, business and electrical engineering, and provides the exams for Carnegie Mellon’s first computer science-related Ph.D. students.

1962: CIT receives a $600,000 contract to research the theory of computer programming, AI, interpretation of natural languages, man-computer interactions and design of computing machinery from the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Defense Department.

1965: Carnegie Mellon establishes the Computer Science Department with the support of a $5 million grant from the Richard K. Mellon Foundation. Alan Perlis is its first head. The first students enroll in the Ph.D. program in CS.

1967: The first computer science doctoral degrees are awarded.

1971: Joseph Traub takes over as head of the computer science department.

1975: Herb Simon and Allen Newell win the Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computer science.

1978: Herb Simon wins the Nobel Prize in Economics for decision-making theory.

1983: The Andrew Project begins, making Carnegie Mellon the first wired campus.  One outcome was AFS, a widely used network file system.

1985: The Computer Science Department becomes a floating unit at Carnegie Mellon, not tethered to a particular school or college. 

1985: Carnegie Mellon develops and launches its groundbreaking “Andrew” campus-wide communications network, one of the first in the nation. Leadership in developing and implementing the network came from the Computer Science Department, most notably from a campus-wide committee chaired by Allen Newell.

1988: The Computer Science Department becomes the School of Computer Science. Nico Haberman is the first dean.

1989–90: The School of Computer Science creates an undergraduate program.

1992: Raj Reddy becomes dean of the School of Computer Science.

1999: James Morris (CS’63) becomes dean of the School of Computer Science.

2000: The Wireless Andrew network is installed — the first of its kind in the country.

2000: BusinessWeek and Yahoo! Internet Life magazines rate Carnegie Mellon as the Most Wired University.

2000: US News ranks the graduate CS program #3, tied with UC-Berkeley.

2002: Randal Bryant and David O’Hallaron publish a “definitive” textbook for computer programming based on the 15-213 course. It's used in 18 schools in its first year.

2002: SCS is ranked #1 by US News & World Report for its computer science Ph.D. program (tied with MIT, Stanford and UC-Berkeley).

2002: Intel opens a research lab in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon, with SCS’s M. Satyanarayanan (CS’79, ’83) as director.

2003: SCS Day, the first undergraduate talent showcase, is held on campus.

2004: Randal Bryant becomes dean of the School of Computer Science.

2004: Jeannette Wing is announced as head of the Computer Science Department.

2004: Carnegie Mellon opens a branch campus at Education City in Doha, Qatar, offering undergraduate education in computer science and business. Former Robotics Institute Director Chuck Thorpe (CS’85) becomes the first dean.

2004: Carnegie Mellon receives a $20 million gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help fund construction of a new building dedicated to expanding the horizons of computer science.

2005: Google announces plans to open an engineering lab in Pittsburgh in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon, with SCS professor Andrew Moore as director.

2007: Professor Randy Pausch delivers his "Last Lecture," which goes viral and receives more than 17 million (now) hits on YouTube. His lecture is later turned into a book.

2007: Peter Lee becomes head of the Computer Science Department.

2008: The Henry L. Hillman Foundation Gives Carnegie Mellon $10 Million for a research building in the new computer science complex.

2008: Ed Clarke wins the Turing Award, computing's highest honor.

2008: Carnegie Mellon and Sun Microsystems collaborate to support continued development of the Alice programming environment.

2009: The Gates Center for Computer Science and the Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies is completed and dedicated by Bill Gates in September.

2009: Disney honors Randy Pausch with a memorial fellowship for Carnegie Mellon Computer Science and Fine Arts students.

2009: Carnegie Mellon computer scientists Ed Clarke and André Platzer develop a method for verifying the safety of computer-controlled devices.

2010: Jeannette Wing returns to her role as head of the Computer Science Department after two years with the National Science Foundation.

2013: Frank Pfenning is named head of the Computer Science Department. 

2014: SCS celebrates 25 years & Andrew Moore becomes dean of SCS.

2015: The Computer Science Department celebrates 50 years of changing the world!