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McGill University School of Computer Science

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Title: McGill University School of Computer Science  
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Subject: McGill University Faculty of Science, School of Computer Science, Luc Devroye, Islamic Studies Library, Montreal Diocesan Theological College
Collection: Computer Science Departments in Canada, McGill University
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McGill University School of Computer Science

School of Computer Science
McGill University
Type Public
Established 1969
Director Gregory Dudek
Campus Urban
Information 514-398-7071

The School of Computer Science (SOCS) is a department in the Faculty of Science at McGill University in Montreal. The school is the second most funded computer science department in Canada.[1] It currently has 34 faculty members, 60 Ph.D. students and 100 Masters students.[1]


  • History 1
  • Breakthroughs 2
  • McConnell Engineering Building 3
  • Trottier Building 4
  • Programs offered 5
  • Enrollment 6
  • Notable faculty 7
  • Former faculty 8
  • Notable alumni 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The first graduate student in the computing field at McGill University was Gerald Ratzer. He came from Cambridge, England in September 1964, and was registered for a M. Sc. in the Faculty of Graduate Sciences. He was attached to the McGill Computing Centre, and his supervisor was David Thorpe, who was the Director of the Computing Centre. The creation of a Computer Science organization was led by the Dean of Engineering George Lee (John) d'Ombrain, who wished to see computers used for assisted learning in classrooms, as well as data systems in hospitals. He is also credited with bringing the first computer to McGill University.[2] However, there were some detractors from the idea to create a Computer Science school. One mathematician is alleged to have said, "When radios came along, we did not start a School of Radio Science! Computers are just another application of Electrical Engineering!" The School of Computer Science was formally created in 1969.[2]

The use of the term "School" was to reinforce the idea of independence from the Faculty of Engineering. Over the years, the School of Computer Science continued to face difficulties over sharing resources such as academic slots, teaching assistants, and space with their Engineering peers. This was partly due to cross-appointments of faculty from Electrical Engineering, leaving Computer Science understaffed. There were also concerns amongst engineers that Computer Science was not a professional discipline, and that students would choose Computer Science over Engineering, lowering the amount of funding available. This led to engineers pressuring the School not to have major and Master's degrees for a long time. The minor in Computer Science was created in 1978 with the undergraduate program following in 1979; however, the major program was not created until 1990.[2] Eventually, a heated debate between Dean Dealy of the Faculty of Engineering and Dean Shaver of the Faculty of Science in 1995 led to the School moving to Science in 1997.[2]

The original Computer Science building was Burnside Hall, which was built in 1970.[3][4] It is notable for containing the Computing Centre, which contributed funds to Computer Science faculty such as Tim Merritt. The School moved into the McConnell Building in 1988.

In 1984, McGill University owned the two USENET nodes in Quebec: one for Computer Science, and the other for Computer vision.[5] Around 1992, McGill was also the main network hub for all of Quebec's academic networks[6]

In 1985, the McGill Research Centre for Intelligent Machines (McRCIM) was formed by four researchers – Martin Levine, Steve Zucker, Pierre Bélanger, and George Zames. Today, it is known as the Centre for Intelligent Machines, and seeks to advance the state of knowledge in such domains as robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, computer vision, systems and control theory, and speech recognition.[7]

In September of the 1993 academic year, a new Major Program for a B.A. in Computer Science was established.[8] This led to a ratio of weighted FTEs per professor (23.18) that was amongst the highest at McGill University.


The first Internet Search Engine, Archie search engine, was written in 1990 by three McGill computer science students: Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan, and J. Peter Deutsch.

The MUSIC/SP mainframe operating system was developed and marketed by McGill University. With novel features such as file access control and data compression, it was used world-wide until being discontinued in 2007.[9]

McConnell Engineering Building

The School of Computer Science is located in the McConnell Engineering Building, which was donated to McGill University by John W. McConnell in 1959.[10] McConnell was a major benefactor of the University since 1911 and one of its Governors from 1928 until 1958.

Trottier Building

Lorne M. Trottier Building McGill
3630 University Street[11]

The Lorne M. Trottier Building houses Computer Science computer labs, classrooms, and study spaces. This building is named after Lorne Trottier, who donated ten million dollars to construct it in 2000/2001. The Trottier Building opened in 2003.[2]

Programs offered

The School offers programs such as:[12]

  • B.Sc. / M.Sc. (Thesis) Fast Track Option in Computer Science.
  • Masters in Computer Science.
  • Ph. D. Program in Computer Science.
  • Bioinformatics Graduate Option
  • Computational Science and Engineering Graduate Option
  • Major with paid Internship Year in Science [13]


This data was taken from the School of Computer Science annual reports.[8]
Academic year Undergraduate* Master's PhD
1993 165 83 44
1994 259 97 39
1995 290 85 34
1996 321 93 32
1997 385 83 24
1998 416 77 28
1999 391 100 22
  • Calculated as students in Major and Honours program

Notable faculty

Former faculty

Notable alumni


  1. ^ a b General Information
  2. ^ a b c d e History of the Faculty of Engineering
  3. ^ Burnside Hall Information
  4. ^ History of McGill project
  5. ^ 1984 Map of Usenet in Canada
  6. ^ Data Trash: The Theory of the Virtual Class
  7. ^ History of CIM
  8. ^ a b School of Computer Science Annual Reports
  9. ^ MUSIC information
  10. ^ McConnell Building information
  11. ^
  12. ^ Programs offered
  13. ^ Internship Year in Science

External links

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