Cleve Moler, IEEE Computer Society Pioneer award 2012

Cet article est la retranscription en anglais de deux videos mises en ligne après la nomination de Cleve Moler, père de MATLAB, au titre de IEEE Computer Science Pioneer Award 2012.

Cet article fait suite au billet Félicitations Mr. Moler du blog Vers MATLAB et au delà.

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I. Introduction

J'ai essayé de retranscrire le plus fidèlement possible les propos de chaque protagoniste.

Si vous voulez néanmoins apporter des compléments ou des corrections à cette transcription, n'hésitez pas à me contacter par MP.

Les lecteurs intéressés par le parcours et les anecdotes de Cleve Moler avant et après sa période MATLAB pourront lire une prédédente interview réalisée en 2004 pour le SIAM History of Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing Project (, toujours en anglais mais plus complète, ici.

A lire également The Origins of MATLAB par Cleve Moler sur le site de MathWorks

II. IEEE Computer Society Pioneer Award winner "Cleve Moler"

Vous trouverez cette video en ligne ici IEEE Computer Society Pioneer Award winner "Cleve Moler" (durée de la video : 8min 38sec)

0:24 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

When you step on the breaks on your car and the wheels begin to spin and the anti-lock system take over pump your breaks for you. How urge they be pumped ? How fast ? There is a mathematical theory of that. Anti-lock brakes are simulated and designed on computers.

0:40 - Tom Conte – Georgia Tech

It's hard to put it in the words because his contribution have had such a profound effect on our field.

0:50 - David Alan Grier – 2012 IEEE Computer Society President-Elect

He took the knowledge we had about linear systems, about how to solve them and use them, and put them in a form where someone who really didn't understand that knowledge could use them.

1:10 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

My early education, grad school and high school, was mostly in Salt Lake City in Utah. In junior high school I had a teacher, Mr Persch who let me do my own thing and sent me down to the library with a book and said “Read this book”. I really give him credit for let me do my own thing in maths (1).

1:30 - David Alan Grier – 2012 IEEE Computer Society President-Elect

Cleve [Moler] said that he got this award for helping computers do what God intended them to do. That's cute but it kind of misses the point and the value of his contribution.

1:45 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

In the 1970's, I was involved in projects called Linpack and Eispack, which were Fortran subroutine libraries for doing matrix computation. Today Linpack is a benchmark, that's what it's famous for but, back then it was a subroutine library. So I wrote the first version of MATLAB in Fortran in the late 1970's as a kind of matrix calculator. MATLAB stands for matrix laboratory. Really had to be MATLAB.

2:15 - David Bader – Georgia Tech

Cleve Moler is getting the pioneer award for his contribution to creating software MATLAB that has really change the way we teach engineering around the world.

2:26 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

The first computer I used at Caltech in 1958-1959 was the Burroughs 205 Datatron. A tube machine, drums, paper tape. I like to say it was a personal computer because only one person could use it at a time.

2:46 - David Bader – Georgia Tech

So MATLAB is an incredible piece of software under Cleve's design that allows a scientist or engineer to really think about their problem base, versus how to compute it on their laptop. It's allowed the entire profession to really move forward with modeling and simulation and be able to solve problems that wouldn't be solvable any other way.

3:10 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

In 1979, I visited Standford and [John] Todd in numerical analysis course and used MATLAB in the course and other people started using it (students at Standford and students at companies near Standford). A guy named Jack Little who was a control engineer started to use MATLAB for control theory. I didn't know anything about that. I didn't know what the subject was at that time. The PC came out a few years later. Jack anticipated the use of PC and technical computing and he said “Let's put make this software commercial”.

3:50 - Tom Conte – Georgia Tech

What he did in founding both numerical libraries such as Linpack and Eispack which were used for generations are still used for High Performance Computing but also in creating MATLAB which is a tool that is now used across all disciplines of engineering and sciences and it's often used by engineers to prototype something in the computer.

4:20 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

It's pretty amazing that MATLAB has come on the way. Well it's not an overnight success. It's been 25-30 years. The mathematics in MATLAB and the graphics in MATLAB make it widely applicable in many many technical fields. Things that I didn't anticipate and Jack [Little] didn't anticipate. And that's led two of us all over the world.

5:00 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

I really had two carriers. The first half of my carrier was as a professor. I enjoyed that very much. I had terrific students. Those students are now professors in number of universities around the country and that was before MATLAB. The second half of my carrier was the MATLAB part. I've been a visiting professor on occasion but being a professor is not a big part of my life anymore. Yesterday I was visiting Caltech and visiting some physics labs in the basement of the physics building. When I say I wrote the first MATLAB, they were blown away. You can learn mathematics when you're young. You can learn to be a writer later. So stay in school. That's my advise today for young people.

6:00 - David Bader – Georgia Tech

The computer society has created the pioneer award to recognize truly outstanding technical achievements such as Cleve Moler's activities towards the profession.

6:12 - David Alan Grier – 2012 IEEE Computer Society President-Elect

He got the award for systematizing knowledge. He took the knowledge about how to solve a certain class of mathematical problems (linear systems) and put that in a form, in software that would allow anyone who had to deal with this kind of problem to solve them and make it part of a bigger system even if they didn't understand the mathematics or all the subtleties that went into it.

6:33 - Tom Conte – Georgia Tech

Probably the plane you took here or the car you drove here, the systems were very likely first prototype using models in MATLAB. So he is a true pioneer because he's had a large effect, a profound effect on the field.

6:51 - David Alan Grier – 2012 IEEE Computer Society President-Elect

This really is a substantial accomplishment because it involved looking at all aspects of the mathematics. But in the end, he produced a very fundamental tool that has remained a fundamental part of computer science and computer systems.

7:05 - Cleve Moler – MathWorks

I enjoy being recognized by awards like these. You have to think this is pretty important. I go down the Ireland in airplane and see somebody using MATLAB on a laptop in the airplane and say “Excuse me, I see what you're doing. Tell me about what you're doing”. That's enormously rewarding when that happens. Meet somebody in an airport using MATLAB is very different than getting the IEEE pioneer award but I get the same feeling from both. I'm happy that MATLAB is my legacy.

Cleve Moler won this award for improving the quality of mathematical software, making it more accessible, and for creating MATLAB.

III. Cleve Moler receives 2012 Computer Pioneer Award

Vous trouverez cette video en ligne ici Cleve Moler receives 2012 Computer Pioneer Award (durée de la video : 8min 07sec)


The Computer Pioneer Award was established in 1981 to recognize those individuals whose vision has resulted in the evolution of the computer industry. A silver medal is presented to exceptional individuals who have contributed significantly to the development of the computing field. Throughout his career, Cleve Moler has contributed to numerical computation. His 1967 co-authored text book "Computer Solution of Linear Algebraic Systems" is widely acknowledged as a classic work in numerical analysis. He was one of the co-developers of Eispack and Linpack, early examples of numerical software, to solve dense linear systems of equations. During the late 1970's and early 1980's while at the university of New Mexico, he began developing several packages of mathematical software for computational science and engineering.

0:55 - Cleve Moler - MathWorks

I wanted my students use Linpack and Eispack without writing Fortran programs. So I wrote the first version of MATLAB, in Fortran, in the late 1970's as a kind of matrix calculator. MATLAB stands for matrix laboratory. Really had to be MATLAB. And we got MATLAB. So that was the beginning. It was just something for my students to use. It was a kind of hobby for me, no thought of making it a commercial product.


The software packages soon spread to other universities and found a strong audience within the applied mathematics community. The project eventually evolved into MATLAB, a matrix of high level technical computing software. In 1984, Cleve Moler co-founded MathWorks with Jack Little to commercialize and continue development of MATLAB. Since then, MATLAB has grown from a simple matrix calculator with 80 functions to a complex software with over 8000 functions. MATLAB is a universal tool in science and engineering. MATLAB is widely used in universities and also gained acceptance in industry. Some of today most popular uses for MATLAB are in the automobile, aerospace and finance industries. Cleve Moler continues to contribute to MATLAB technical evolution and dissemination.

2:15 - Cleve Moler - MathWorks

I enjoy meeting new people. I go down the Ireland in airplane and see somebody using MATLAB on a laptop in the airplane and say “Excuse me, I see what you're doing. Tell me about what you're doing”. Meet somebody in an airport using MATLAB is very different than getting the IEEE pioneer award but I get the same feeling from both. It's very satisfying.


Throughout his research, software and publications, Cleve Moler has fundamentally transformed numerical analysis and its applications. We are honored to present him with the 2012 IEEE Computer Society Pioneer Award.

3:00 - David Bader - Georgia Tech

Among his many achievements, Dr Moler is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a past president of SIAM (the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics). Cleve, you know even I use MATLAB on the plane here to Seattle. (Cleve Moler : "Even you !"). So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dr Cleve Moler.

3:45- Cleve Moler - MathWorks

Well, thank you very much. I was really surprised when I got the call from John (?) saying I do have won this award. This is the first time the IEEE Computer Society has given this award for mathematics or mathematical software since the Charter Recipients (2). Alston Householder was one of the winners but no one since then. Over a 100 awards, I'm the first one since then. I knew some of the real pioneers early in my career as student. I have 100 of stories about the real pioneers (John Todd, George Forsythe, James Wilkinson, Alston Householder). Let me just tell you one about Todd. I got started in this business from John Todd at Caltech. I took numerical analysis from him over 50 years ago and it was he first time numerical analysis has been told any place with that name. One of the first times. In the handouts and mimeographed notes about computation they done on the SWAC at UCLA about Monte Carlo, they said after 5617 steps the results were so-and-so. And after 9812 steps, the results were so-and-so. Years later I introduced Todd at a meeting and I told the story about he was an early pioneer. And he headed out his notes and he's got up and he said "What a great pleasure to be introduced by a former student. I only have one correction. Those numbers had to be multiples of 8 (hate ?)". We looked in the memory random machine until it died and we look in the memory to see what was there. I was a professor myself for first half of my career. I'm very proud of number of students I've had over those years. Jack Dongarra from Tennessee, Charles Van Loan form Cornell, Alan Cline from Texas, Stanley Eisenstat at Yale, Norman Schryer at Bell Labs and ten others (3). Those were very important part of the first half of my career. I spent 5 years in the computer industry and computer hardware industry at Intel and at Ardent. Working for Justin Rattner and then Gordon Bell at Ardent. That was an important part of my career but then we had the MATLAB company. MATLAB is the software. MathWorks is the company. The company was started in 1984. I really want to brag about this company and this success. It's one of the great, maybe perhaps, the greatest success of applied mathematics. How far this is permeated(?). I had no idea this was gonna happen. I didn't do this to start a company. I built this as a calculator for my students and it turned out that the mathematics I was doing was useful in a lot of other places (control theory, signal processing, image processing). Things I didn't know anything about. I used to sort of make a through(?) way line that we used computers for what God intended them to do arithmetic. But today lights night like tonight has indicated to me, you know I've known for a long time, that computers are useful for other things too. In fact we used them for other things MathWorks does as well. I've had a little to do with running a company. My partner, Jack Little, is really the father of MathWorks, the company. And thanks to Jack for making all this possible. We now have 2500 employees worldwide. We make well over 500 million dollars in income this year. We have 20 offices around the world. This is not your professor's matrix calculator anymore. This is grown into something much much larger and much more important than that. Important part of this story is my wife Patsy who's been here and thanks to Patsy. I'll just conclude by telling, by agreeing with Arvind(4) "You're not done here and for me either". Thanks a lot.

IV. Remerciements

L'auteur tient à remercier Winjerome pour les compléments et les corrections apportés à la retranscription en anglais de ces deux videos.

Plus de détail sur cette anecdote dans l'interview donnée par Cleve Moler pour le SIAM History of Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing Project et citée dans l'introduction de cet article.


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