The Genesis of Digital Humanities and What’s Next.

Published on 5/24/2016

By Gregory Mone
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 6, Pages 20-21

What’s Next for Digital Humanities?

See the story of Father Roberto Busa, an Italian Jesuit priest who conceived the project to index the works of St. Thomas Aquinas word by word. There were an estimated 10 million words, so the priest wondered if a computing machine might help. Three years later, Busa traveled to the U.S. to explore options, eventually securing a meeting with IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. Beforehand, Busa learned Watson’s engineers had already informed him the task would be impossible, so on his way into Watson’s office, he grabbed a small poster from the wall that read,

“The difficult we do right away; the impossible takes a little longer.” The priest showed the executive his own company’s slogan, and Watson promised IBM’s cooperation.

“The impossible” took roughly three decades, but that initial quest also marked the beginning of the field now known as Digital Humanities.  The the full story.


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