New Initiatives Aim To Emancipate 'Scientist-Programmers'

Cornell University’s Eldredge Bermingham spends hours each day, against his will, in front of a computer. Bermingham isn’t a reluctant computer scientist; he’s just a biologist who needs some good software. He uses the latest techniques in molecular genetics to understand how new species are formed. His work requires computer programs so specialized that most of them aren’t available commercially. So Bermingham has to write his own, or hire programmers to help him. Ove

Christopher Anderson
Sep 17, 1989

Cornell University’s Eldredge Bermingham spends hours each day, against his will, in front of a computer. Bermingham isn’t a reluctant computer scientist; he’s just a biologist who needs some good software. He uses the latest techniques in molecular genetics to understand how new species are formed.

His work requires computer programs so specialized that most of them aren’t available commercially. So Bermingham has to write his own, or hire programmers to help him. Overseeing the process often takes a quarter of his working day and keeps him from his laboratory. “It’s just a gross expense of time,” he complains.

Berrningham is one of a swelling number of researchers who have experienced the dark side of the computer revolution. As workstations and PCs infiltrate nearly every corner of scientific endeavor and grow ever more powerful and capable, scientists are spending more time trying to satisfy their machine’s insatiable appetite for better...

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