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Scientist’s Notebook: Why is Alice called Alice?

Randy Pausch: Why is Alice called Alice?

This is one of my favorite questions. It always lets me know the question asker is thinking in the correct direction. After all, the ability to name something is a tremendous power, and in this case, there's a terrific reason.

Alice pays homage to Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Carroll was a mathematician, novelist, and photographer. Most important, he could do intellectually difficult things but also realized the most powerful thing was to be able to communicate clearly and in an entertaining way. This inspires our efforts to make something as complex as computer programming easy and fun.

The name is also a very practical choice. The artwork associated with the Alice books is now in the public domain, its copyright having lapsed. Also, the name "Alice" has several other advantages:

  • It's easy to spell.
  • It's easy to pronounce.
  • It shows up near the top of alphabetical lists.

You can learn more about Lewis Carroll at www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/

~history/Mathematicians/Dodgson.html

(University of St Andrews).—Randy Pausch

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