In Pursuit of Simplicity

the manuscripts of

Edsger W. Dijkstra

Photo of Edsger W. Dijkstra

(photo ©2002 Hamilton Richards)

On 6 August 2002, Edsger W. Dijkstra, Professor Emeritus of Computer Sciences and Mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin, died at his home in Nuenen, the Netherlands.

The Computer Sciences Department's obituary for him can be found here.

A remembrance of him by the department's chairman can be found here.

The university's Memorial Resolution is here.

To mark the occasion of Professor Dijkstra's retirement in November 1999 from the Schlumberger Centennial Chair in Computer Sciences, which he had occupied since 1984, and to celebrate his forty-plus years of seminal contributions to computing science, the Department of Computer Sciences organized a symposium which took place on his birthday in May 2000; its program (10 MB) contains an outline of Edsger's career, as well as a collection of quotes culled from his writings, from his blackboard, and from what others have said about him.

Like most of us, Edsger always believed it a scientist's duty to maintain a lively correspondence with his scientific colleagues. To a greater extent than most of us, he put that conviction into practice. For over four decades, he mailed copies of his consecutively numbered technical notes, trip reports, insightful observations, and pungent commentaries, known collectively as "EWDs", to several dozen recipients in academia and industry. Thanks to the ubiquity of the photocopier and the wide interest in Edsger's writings, the informal circulation of many of the EWDs eventually reached into the thousands.

Although most of Edsger's publications began life as EWD manuscripts, the great majority of his manuscripts remain unpublished. They have been inaccessible to many potential readers, and those who have received copies have been unable to cite them in their own work. To alleviate both of these problems, the department has collected over a thousand of the manuscripts in this permanent web site, in the form of PDF bitmap documents (to read them, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader). We hope you will find it convenient, useful, inspiring, and enjoyable.

In addition to the manuscripts, you may enjoy a 25-minute video visit with Edsger, filmed in autumn 2000.

Each manuscript file is accessible through either of two indexes:

0. BibTeX index. Each entry includes all the available bibliographic data.

1. Ad-hoc indexes. These contain titles only, but are faster if you know what you're looking for.

EWD-numbered documents

Technical reports from the Mathematical Centre (now CWI: Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica)

PhD thesis (5.3 MB)

Other documents

English translations

Recent additions

17 August 2003: The University of Texas faculty’s Memorial Resolution has been added.

19 July 2003: The site now has its first English translation of a document originally in Dutch. Thanks to Toby Thain and Albert Kiefer for this one; others are in the pipeline.

17 July 2003: The very last EWD (EWD1318) has been added to the archive. This one was written after Prof. Dijkstra returned for the last time to The Netherlands.

15 July 2003: There's a nice article in Salon about EWD and this site. (The Salon site charges admission, but by wading through some advertisements you can get a one-day free pass.)

19 June 2003: Search facility installed.

9 June 2003: Announcement of EWD transcriptions.

If you would like to be notified by e-mail of changes and additions to this archive, please send a message to


You can search for words and phrases in the manuscripts that have been transcribed (sorry, the PDF image files can't be searched).

Simple search:

Advanced search.

The search facility is provided free of charge by


A group of volunteers is undertaking to transcribe the EWDs to simple HTML files, in order to make them both searchable and accessible to the visually impaired. The transcriptions completed so far, and those in progress, are indexed here.

If you might be interested in lending a hand in this effort, please read this.

Copyrights and Permissions

Except where noted otherwise, copyright in all of the manuscripts presented in this web site is retained by Edsger W. Dijkstra. The manuscripts are reproduced here with his permission.

The other copyright holders are

Academic Press


Addison-Wesley Longmans


Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.


Mathematical Association of America


The Royal Society

Springer-Verlag NY


    • Krzysztof R. Apt tracked down Mathematical Centre reports and other early Dijkstra documents at CWI Amsterdam, and sent them to Austin for scanning.
    • Wim H.J. Feijen provided the master list of EWD manuscripts on which this collection is based. He also collected, and sent to Austin, many of the early originals.
    • Rajeev Joshi devised the first version of the BibTeX index.
    • Stephen W. Keckler initiated the scanning project, and was a highly dependable source of support and encouragement along the way.
    • Jayadev Misra got the whole show under way, and kept it going through thick and thin.

These folks answered the call for volunteers to inspect the PDFs and report deficiencies:

    Krzysztof R. Apt
    Lex Bijlsma
    Wim H.J. Feijen
    Rob R. Hoogerwoord
    Rajeev Joshi
    Stephen W. Keckler
    Pam Lawhead
    Jayadev Misra
    Speedway Copy
      Scanned over 7700 pages of manuscripts into TIFF and PDF files, at very reasonable rates.
    Andy Wood
      His Perl script Bibmarkup translates BibTeX indexes into HTML.


We know that some of the PDFs are less than fully satisfactory. In some cases, we've done the best we can with ancient and worn originals; in others, we'll continue to tweak the original scans (TIFFs) to make better PDFs, and have decided not to delay the release of the web site while we do so.

Given the size of the collection, the indexes may well contain some bugs. If you notice any deficiencies in them, or in any of the PDF files, please send me a brief message describing the problem.


Revised Mon, 22 Sep 2003