I've just read on The New York Times's article on Knuth The Yoda of Silicon Valley that his wife, Jill, is a graphic designer.

Did she have a role in creating Knuth's TeX computer typesetting system?

Of course, the question is extended to the complete project: TeX, METAFONT, Computer Modern, ...

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    From the TeXbook: Don't use footnotes in your books, Don. — JILL KNUTH (1962)
    – egreg
    Dec 19, 2018 at 10:26
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    @egreg Behind every great man, there is a great woman :)
    – CarLaTeX
    Dec 19, 2018 at 10:33
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    A few things I remember running across in Knuth's papers/articles/interviews (sorry can't elaborate properly right now) -- (1) "TeX Incunabula" mentions that the first(?) book typeset with TeX was for Mrs. Knuth's relatives, with illustrations by her. Also, she designed the cover of the first TeX manual. (2) One of Knuth's published examples of a TeX format (other than plain) is something for recipes, designed with her input and for her to use (see "Recipes and Fractions" and "Macros for Jill" by DEK in TUGboat) -- some more of TeX's features came about from such applications (contd) Dec 19, 2018 at 18:20
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    (contd) (3) "WEB" (the language/system TeX is written in) is named after her mother :-) (4) While DEK was designing "The letter S" and having sleepless nights, she had a great suggestion (joke that DEK likes to tell) (5) Not to forget the great support given throughout the development of TeX, which DEK recalls with gratitude and affection. E.g. the family were planning to spend a sabbatical year (i.e. leave for DEK from teaching duties at Stanford) in South America, but she agreed to spend it going nowhere, with DEK working on TeX instead. Such support is often crucial. Dec 19, 2018 at 18:20
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    @ShreevatsaR Thank you very much! Please add an answer, I think it's interesting!
    – CarLaTeX
    Dec 19, 2018 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


I don't know of any text that mentions Jill's help for the TeX language, the implementation, etc. But if the question is extended to the complete project TeX, METAFONT, and Computer Modern her help is documented.

Besides all the support that she gave Donald Knuth in their relationship---the NYT article mentions that he starts to be active at night, sleeping during the day; what does that mean for the partner?---he mentions a couple of times in his papers her contributions.

First in the article based on his his Gibbs lecture of 1978, in which he talked about his research in Mathematical Typography. The section Acknowledgments starts with the words

I would like to thank my wife Jill for the many important suggestions she made to me during critical stages of this research

(page 59 in Digital Typography (DT)). Earlier in this article he wrote

With my wife's assistance, I finally came up with a satisfactory solution

In this part he discusses the problem to draw the letter `S'; page 48 in DT.

On page 64 of the book Companion to the Papers of Donald Knuth he says

Jill helped me at this point: She took 35mm slides of the master pages that I'd gotten from Addison-Wesley

That was an early stage, in which he tries to get the letter forms used in his books The Art of Computer Programming.

  • +1, thank you! Of course the question is extended to the complete project TeX, METAFONT, and Computer Modern. I'll edit my question.
    – CarLaTeX
    Dec 20, 2018 at 7:06

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