Samuel D. Conte
Founding Head of Purdue's Department of Computer Sciences
Samuel D. Conte's influence on computer science extends far beyond the Purdue campus, where in 1962 he helped to found and then led the nation's first degree-awarding computer science program.
"Samuel Conte was at the leading edge of one of the most important scientific developments of the 20th century," then Purdue president Martin Jischke said on the occasion of Professor Conte's death in 2002. "He was one of the first to recognize the role the computer could play in teaching and research, as well as in business. His vision and leadership have had a profound impact on Purdue and our world."
Professor Conte was an early proponent of computer science as just that—a science. At the time, using a computer was generally viewed as merely a matter of programming, a vocational skill lacking in deep scientific thought and not something requiring a degree.
In addition to teaching and heading the Purdue Computer Science Department for 17 years, Professor Conte served as director of the Purdue Computing Center, a forerunner to ITaP, from 1962-68. He was founder and co-director of the Software Engineering Research Center, established by the National Science Foundation as a joint effort between Purdue and the University of Florida to create a software engineering partnership between industries and universities.
His research focused on computational mathematics and software engineering and appeared in more than 50 scientific journals and six books. He co-wrote two textbooks that became standards in the field, "Elementary Numerical Analysis" and "Software Engineering Metrics and Models."
Before coming to Purdue to lead the University's newly created Computer Science Department, Professor Conte managed a TRW Systems research group from 1956-62 where he was involved in ballistic missile and satellite research. He was an associate professor of mathematics at Wayne State University in Michigan from 1946-56.