Contributions Of Dijkstra And Knuth Towards Structured Programming

Structured Programming

Both Dijkstra and Knuth contributed towards structured programming in several ways. To begin with, it was Dijkstra who emphasized the importance of Structured Programming. He wrote his first paper on Structured Programming in 1965 proposing the construction of programs in a structured way. Even though it did not create a turmoil in the computer field, later on, after a paper published by Bohm and Jacopini in 1966, which showed that three basic control structures could display any program abstracts and the use of GOTO statements can be excluded theoretically, Dijkstra came up and enforced his ideas into a letter and published in ACM. This created a lot of support for Dijkstra’s proposal by the computer programmers. However, it was in late 1971 after a successful demonstration of New York Times Online Retrieval System, Structured Programming proved to be more than just a proposal and soon found its way to be used for creating software’s for the United Stated Government. Implementation of Structured Programming helped in bringing down the cost of the software significantly at that time.

Similarly, Knuth, after learning about Structured Programming from practices done by Dijkstra in the early 1970s, some of the major works done by Knuth like TeX were using Structured Programming. Even though, Knuth used the methodology proposed by Dijkstra, he did not completely agree with the confinement of GO TO statements to be used just in lower level languages. This lead to the paper ‘Structured Programming with go to Statements’ by Knuth in 1974.


  • Jensen, RW 1981, ‘Structured Programming’,
  • KNUTH, DE 1974, ‘Structured Programming with go to Statements’, Computing Surveys, vol. 6, no. 4.
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Who is Dijkstra?

Edsger W Dijkstra

Edsger W. Dijkstra was born in Rotterdam and was a professor in Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands. After working as a research fellow in Burroughs Corporation in the ‘70s, he was holding the Schlumberger Centennial Chair in the University of Texas, which was established by the Board of Regents, till he retired in 2000. Dijkstra had a considerable number of contributions towards computer science. One of his first major contribution was the Shortest-Path Algorithm, which finds the shortest path between two places and another contribution is the Minimum Spanning Tree algorithm. He introduced the concept of stack in recursive programs. Dijkstra was one of the first ones to emphasized the importance of structured programming, he wrote the ‘notes on structured programming’, which is still in circulation, made a big impact on computer science.

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