William Y. Arms


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I am Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Computing and Information Science at Cornell University.

My education was in mathematics and operational research, but my career has been devoted to novel ways of applying computing to academic activities, including early work in educational computing, computer networks, and digital libraries.

In the 1970s I was a member of the mathematics faculty at the British Open University, which was the pioneer in creating degree level courses for what is now called distance education. Our team developed the first two computer science courses, making use of the world's the first national computer network designed specifically for education.

From 1978 to 1985, I was in charge of computing at Dartmouth College. Dartmouth is generally acknowledged to have been the first university to provide a really satisfactory computing environment for non-specialist computer users. More than ten years earlier, John Kemeny and Tom Kurtz had developed one of the first large time sharing systems and the Basic programming language. This system reached its full maturity in the early 1980s. At the same time we recognized that the future of academic computing was moving from large central computers to networks of personal computers. In a few short years, we transformed the campus by developing the first campus-wide computer network and, in 1984, introducing a program of universal ownership of personal computers, linked to the network.

From 1985 to 1994, I was Vice President for computing at Carnegie Mellon University. Under President Richard Cyert, the university had a vision of a university that would achieve excellence through universal, high-end computing. Much of the support came from the Andrew project, jointly with IBM. The strategy to achieve this goal had a technical component (a high speed campus network, with powerful workstations linked through a central file system, and distributed applications), sponsorship of innovations in education through interactive computing, and the developments of digital library services.

My interest in digital libraries dates back to the early 1970s. At Dartmouth, we were the first university to attach an online catalog to a network. At Carnegie Mellon, I led the development of the Mercury Electronic Library, which had its campus-wide deployment in 1991. Since then I have been part of many of the major digital library research programs in the USA, as a principal investigator for DARPA's CSTR program (1992), consultant to the NSF/DARPA/NASA Digital Libraries Initiative (1994), and one of the creators behind the NSF's National Science Digital Library (2000). In recent years, most of my research has been in the Cornell Web Lab, a very large scale project to analyze historic collections of web pages.

I came to Cornell in 1999 as Professor of Computer Science with the goal of establishing an academic program in Information Science, combining Cornell's strengths in digital libraries, computer science, and the social science that study where people and technology converge. I was the first director of that program from 2002 to 2005.


I retired from Cornell in 2009 and am now Professor Emeritus of Computing and Information Science, dividing my time between homes in Annapolis MD and Ithaca NY. At Cornell, I continue to develop the upper level course on Software Engineering. One of my major pastimes is Sailing.


Oxford University, Balliol College:

B.A. Mathematics, 1966

London School of Economics:

M.Sc. (Econ.) Operational Research, 1967

University of Sussex:

D.Phil. Operational Research, 1973


Cornell University, Ithaca NY

2011 -         : Professor Emeritus
2004 - 2005: Co-Director, Information Science Program
2002 - 2004: Interim Director, Information Science Program
1999 - 2009: Professor of Computer Science

Corporation for National Research Initiatives, Reston VA

1997 - 1999: Vice President
1995 - 1997: Director of Library Systems

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA

1992 - 1994: Vice President for Computing Services
1986 - 1992: Vice President for Academic Services
1985 - 1986: Vice President for Computing and Information Services

Dartmouth College, Hanover NH

1983 - 1985: Vice Provost for Computing & Planning and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science
1978 - 1983: Director of Computing Services and Adjunct Associate Professor of Computer Science
1976 - 1977: Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Open University, England

1972 - 1978: Lecturer in Mathematics

University of Sussex, England

1969 - 1972: Lecturer in Operational Research

English Electric-Leo-Marconi Limited, England

1967 - 1969: Analyst in Management Science Section

Last changed: September, 2014