CIS History

Cornell created Computing and Information Science (CIS) so that any student, scholar, or scientist could bring to bear on any subject, the ideas and technology of computing and information science. Watch our What Is CIS? video.

The idea for a new academic and research paradigm that recognized the broad impact of computing originated in the Computer Science Department vision statement from 1996: “In the great American universities of the 21st century it must be possible for any student to bring to bear on any subject the ideas and technology of computer science.”

This echoed Ezra Cornell’s founding mission, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” It also affirmed then-Cornell President Hunter Rawlings’ call for redefining the 21st century American university. The 1996 Hopcroft-Scott Research Futures report – the product of a presidential task force – identified information sciences as one of three research priority areas for the future.

In the great American universities of the 21st century it must be possible for any student to bring to bear on any subject the ideas and technology of computer science.

In their book Cornell: A History, 1940 – 2015, Glenn Altschuler and Isaac Kramnick note the leadership of Cornell’s top-ranked Computer Science Department in crafting a “Vision for the Next Decade’’ and challenging President Rawlings to “will into being’’ the model research university of the information age.

As a result of these efforts, Cornell’s President and Provost charged a committee of founders – including then-Dean of Engineering John Hopcroft and CIS founding Dean Robert Constable – to work out a new academic structure to implement the founding vision for what would become Computing and Information Science. That is how department founder Juris Hartmanis imagined Computer Science’s role – creating a new field of remarkable scientific depth and lasting intellectual value.

Today, CIS is a faculty of related departments across multiple colleges and two Cornell campuses known for bold new ideas expressed in deep mathematics, innovative software systems, ground breaking textbooks, inspiring curricula, imaginative experiments, and entrepreneurial and commercial impact. The synergies among faculty, researchers and students make CIS more than the sum of its parts.

To learn more about the history of CIS and our founding department, read our foundational documents:

Computer Science 50th Anniversary Timeline

Computer Science Vision Statement, 1996

Research Futures Task Force Report

Initial Report of the Task Force on Computing and Information Science, June, 1999

Call Auditorium Faculty Meeting, September 15, 1999