Sunday, August 14, 2011

A True Jesuit

On August 9, Fr. Roberto Busa, S.J., died (he was 98 years old); he was one of the major pioneers in applied computing. Here is a website on him at IBM; he pushed the business machine manufacturer to engage in the world's first large-scale computational linguistics project: the complete lemmatization of the works of Thomas Aquinas, which resulted in the Index Thomisticus, a project so large that in paper form it constitutes the largest single multi-volume work published to date. The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organization gives out a Busa Prize for outstanding lifetime achievements in the application of information technology to humanities research.

Ernesto Priego discusses the man. The following is from Busa's essay, The Annals of Humanities Computing: The Index Thomisticus (PDF), which is a delightful read:

I feel like a tight-rope walker who has reached the other end. It seems to me like Providence. Since man is child of God and technology is child of man, I think that God regards technology the way a grandfather regards his grandchild.

If the Jesuits produced more of his caliber, they would again be as formidable an intellectual force as they once were.

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