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“Father of Computing” Dies

Submitted on Friday, November 11, 2016

gotlieb-postrThe Faculty of Information is saddened to announce Professor Emeritus C.C. “Kelly” Gotlieb passed away on October 16, 2016, at the age of 95.

Professor Gotlieb is widely regarded as the “father of computing in Canada.” He was instrumental in bringing to Canada, in 1952, the second general-purpose electronic computer ever sold in the world,. It was dubbed Ferut (link is external) – an amalgam of Ferranti Electric Company, its manufacturer, and University of Toronto.

In 1964 he founded the Graduate Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, serving as its inaugural director. Gotlieb’s illustrious career spanned many decades, remaining professionally active well in to his 90s.

While Prof Gotlieb made pioneering contributions to many areas of computing, he did not take a narrow technical view of the subject. As early as the 1960s he became deeply interested with the wider consequences of burgeoning computerization.

His foundational, co-authored Social issues in computing (Academic Press 1973), was the first text book to address the implications of digital technologies for personal privacy, security, employment, international development and other issues that remain of vital concern today.

In the early 1980s, Dr. Gotlieb began working with the Faculty of Information, at that time called the Faculty of Library Science (FLS). He made many contributions, including helping Robarts Library acquire their first computer. In collaboration with then Dean, Katherine Packard (1979-1984) he helped position library science in relation to emerging technological trends. This meant broadening the scope of the field to include information science perspectives, reflected in the name change to Faculty of Library and Information Science in 1982.

During this same period, Kelly introduced Professor Emeritus Andrew Clement to the Faculty. A doctoral student in Computer Science under Prof. Gotlieb’s supervision, Andrew served as a research assistant on a community information services project in Toronto led by Kelly, Dean Packer, and former faculty member Donald Forgie.

“I’m saddened to hear of Kelly’s passing,” shares Prof. Clement. “He has had a greater influence on me than any one else in my academic life. For this I’m deeply grateful. Kelly was a remarkable person who made many important contributions to UofT and computing in Canada, more generally.”

Professor Eric Yu, another PhD graduate from Computer Science, also remembers Kelly fondly. “He is a true inspiration. Always will be.”

On a more literary note, Kelly was married to Phyllis Gotlieb, a poet “noted for the playful brilliance of language and imagery (as well as the author of outstanding science fiction).” Annually, for 60 years, Phyllis wrote Kelly a Valentines Day love poem. After Phyllis’ death, with the help of Ian Lancashire, Professor of English, Kelly compiled these poems into an endearing collection, Phyllis loves Kelly (University of Toronto Libraries, 2014, available as an ebook or print-on-demand softcover).

We share Profs. Clement and Yu’s sorrow at Professor Gotlieb’s passing, and send our deepest condolences to his family.

Read more about Kelly’s contributions to computing in Canada (link is external)