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The Faculty of Informatics of the Vienna University of Technology, the Women's Postgraduate College for Internet Technologies (WIT) and the Austrian Computer Society (OCG) had invited to:


Peter Wegner - A prominent pioneer in computer science!

On the occasion of the Austrian Cross of Honour ("Ehrenkreuz") for Science and Art First Class being awarded to
Prof. Peter Wegner, Brown University, Rhode Island, USA




Thursday, October 19, 2006
16:00 - 19:00+

Vienna University of Technology
Neues Elektrotechnisches Institutsgebäude
1040 Wien, Gußhausstraße 27-29
Room EI 10, Ground floor

Photo Peter Wegner


After the event...

About 70 people came to listen to Prof. Wegner at the WIT-Kolloqium. The professors of the Faculty of Informatics were especially numerous, which shows how strongly Peter Wegner has influenced the history of informatics.

The host of the event, Prof. Gerti Kappel, welcomed the audience. At the beginning, SC Wolf Frühauf (Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture) mentioned the circumstances surrounding the award ceremony in 1999 and renewed his congratulations. Professor Peter Wegner, Austrian by birth, was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour ("Ehrenkreuz") for Science and Art First Class, which is the highest award for a foreign scientist, already in 1999. But it had to be postponed because Prof. Wegner was involved in a severe car accident on his way to the ceremony. It was conducted a while later without his presence. It is therefore even more remarkable that a healthy Peter Wegner was now able to give a talk at the WIT-Kolloquium. The audience followed his thought-provoking ideas on the "Interactive Principles of Problem Solving", which were received as food for thought, with great interest. After the main lecture, Hermann Maurer, Dean of the Faculty of Informatics at the TU Graz, provided the audience with further comments and a historical overview of the subject, which were also well received.

In the second part of the event, which followed after a small break for refreshments, Prof. Wegner was to be recognized appropriately for his life's work. After words of greeting by Prof. Franz Rammerstorfer, Vice Rector for Research at the TU Vienna, and Prof. Gerald Steinhardt, Dean of the Faculty of Informatics, Prof. Christiane Floyd gave an inspiring laudatio. She not only applauded the scientific achievements of Prof. Wegner, but also mentioned the sorrowful episodes in his biography. Nobody could have mastered this difficult task better than Christiane Floyd. Peter Wegner was not the only one touched by her speech.

At the delicious buffet the guests agreed that at this WIT-Kolloqium they had witnessed a rare achievement: The combination of scientific aspects of computer science with socially relevant issues.


Photos and Videos from the event


photos of the event
(350 MB, - will be parted in 4 videos in 1/07)
(Quick Time Player or equivalent must be installed)

video of the talk

** as mp3.file (20 MB)

**  published in OCG Journal 07/03: Christiane Floyd: Laudatio für Peter Wegner


The Schedule consisted of two parts:

16:00 - Part 1: Lecture and discussion

Lecture: "Interactive Principles of Problem Solving"
Prof. Peter Wegner
Brown University, Rhode Island

"Some comments on Peter Wegner's ideas"
Prof. Hermann Maurer
TU Graz, Dean of the Faculty of Informatics


17:30: Break with refreshments


18:00 - Part 2: Tribute to Prof. Wegner

Prof. Franz Rammerstorfer
TU Vienna, Vice Rector for Research

Prof. Gerald Steinhardt
TU Vienna, Dean of the Faculty of Informatics

"Why the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art First Class ('Ehrenkreuz') had been awarded to Prof. Wegner"
Sektionschef Dr. Wolf Frühauf
Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture

Prof. Christiane Floyd
University of Hamburg, Faculty of Informatics

Words of thanks
Prof. Peter Wegner

O.Univ.-Prof. Dr. Gerti Kappel
Business Informatics Group und WIT, TU Wien

After the event there was the opportunity for an informal exchange of opinions at the buffet.


Abstract of the Lecture by Prof. Wegner

Kurt Godel, educated in Vienna, disproved Hilbert's assumption that all mathematical theorems could be proved by logic in the 1930s. Turing in 1936 proved the related result that not all mathematical problems could be solved by computers because the halting problem was unsolvable, while Church showed that the lambda calculus could not solve all mathematical problems. Turing's work with Church in 1937-38 yielded the Church-Turing thesis that effective (algorithmic) methods for computing a mathematical function can always be computed by a Turing machine or the lambda calculus. However, some scholars in the 1960s alleged that all effective problems could be solved by Turing machines, expanding the concept of effectiveness beyond mathematical functions and negating Turing's result by questionable reinterpretation of the argument in his 1936 paper. They also strengthened the Church-Turing thesis to assert that Turing machines can compute (solve) anything that any computer can compute, and therefore that all solvable problem can be implemented by Turing machines, implying that Turing machines are an effective, complete model that inherently describes the substantive nature of computing. We believe that the extended thesis is inaccurate, though the original Church-Turing thesis is correct, and that this misperception has contributed to inaccuracies about the problem-solving power of Turing machines.
In fact, the algorithmic, Turing-machine model of computing is too narrow as a complete model for all problem solving. Interactive computing, which supports interaction with other computers or with the environment during computation, provides a broader concept of computer problem solving more appropriate to object-oriented, concurrent, and internet programming, that better captures the expanded class of current computer models. New models of human thought are needed to express changing models of computer problem solving as well as new models of political and philosophical reasoning that better express truth and effectiveness and can better realize the goals of human behavior.
This talk will propose both a changed interactive paradigm of computer problem solving from  algorithmic Turing machines to interaction, and changed modes of political and philosophical thought from a priori rationalism to testable empiricism as a better model for reasoning and action. Incompleteness of human thought, proposed by Godel for mathematics and by Turing for computers, applies also to other scientific disciplines and to politics, and weakens the overall human role in contributing to human understanding of the world and/or to making the world a better place.

Download the papers: Principles of Problem Solving, Why Interaction is more Powerful than Algorithms

About Prof. Wegner
Peter Wegner emigrated from Vienna to London in 1939 at the age of 6.
He received his batchelor's degree in mathematics from London University in the 1950s and his PhD degree in computer science in the 1960s. He has worked at MIT, Harvard, and Cornell and became a Pofessor of Computer Science at Brown University in 1969. He has published books on Programming Languages and the Theory of Computation, and was editor for books and journals for the US Association for Computing Machines (ACM), He was awarded an Austrian prize for arts and sciences (Österreichisches Ehrenkreuz fur Wissenschaft und Kunst), for his research and his contribution to Austrian Computer Science. His talk was about his recent work on Interactive Computing, which explores new methods of computer problem solving, and presents a new view of the discipline of computing. More info on his homepage: http://www.cs.brown.edu/people/pw/

WIT is funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science, and Culture (bmbwk) and the European Social Fund (ESF). This event is sponsored by Erste Bank.

Contact person at Vienna University of Technology
Dr. Ulrike Pastner, pastner@wit.tuwien.ac.at, Tel. 58801-18815

Attendance free. Lectures in English.


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