"He implemented many of the traditions here. Alan Perlis, Allen Newell and Herbert Simon founded the department, but it was Joe who took this place and turned it into an organizational wonder." Catherine Copetas, Assistant Dean (October 2002)


Joseph F. Traub is the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, as well as an External Professor at Santa Fe Institute. He played a central role in the growth of two major Computer Science Departments at Carnegie Mellon University and Columbia University.

Early in Traub’s career, he was a pioneer in the field of information-based complexity. Since then, he has made a number of important contributions to the field of computer science. His current focus is on continuous quantum computing.

Early Life and Education

Joseph Traub was born in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1932, but his family left while he was still young to get out of Nazi Germany, settling in New York City in 1939.

He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1950, and received his B.S. in Physics, with a minor in Mathematics, from City College of New York in 1954.

Traub next went to Columbia University, originally planning to work toward a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. However, he began to work with computers, became a Fellow of the IBM Watson Research Lab, and wrote his thesis on computational quantum mechanics. Because computer science degrees did not yet exist, Traub got his Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1959.


After receiving his Ph.D., Traub was hired by Bell Laboratories to work in their research division. During this time, he created and developed optimal iteration theory.

In 1966, while spending a semester at Stanford University as a Visiting Associate Professor, Traub worked with Michael Jenkins to develop the Jenkins-Traub algorithm.

Traub continued at Bell until 1970, when he started at the University of Washington as a professor. Soon after, in 1971, he was offered the position of Head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, a role in which he served until 1979. He left to help Columbia University build a Computer Science Department, and became its Founding Chair. Traub still teaches at Columbia University.

In 1985, Traub started the Journal of Complexity, of which he is the Editor in Chief. In 1986, he was invited to start what is now the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board for the National Academies, serving as chair from 1986-1992, then again from 2006-2009.

 See Joseph F. Traub on Wikipedia for more.