A Brief History of LaTeX.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Fri, 20 Feb 1998 04:53:15 -0800

A decent LaTeX home page


has a cute little LaTeX history at


included below... I like how the history of *TeX jumps from 1690 to 1972
in one swell foop. I'm still not sure why Leslie Lamport released a
second edition of the LaTeX manual - I like the first edition a whole
lot better. Also, this history is missing links to historical events to
Graphic Communications Association, Adobe, and Microsoft's decision to
generate a PostScript level 3 that isn't compatible with any of the
printers in my department...

-- Adam

This page contains historical tidbits of interest to TeX, LaTeX, and
AMS-LaTeX users.

LaTeX is a large set of macros built on top of TeX, a digital
typesetting language created by Donald Knuth at Stanford in the
1970s. The original LaTeX, now called LaTeX 2.09, was created by Leslie
Lamport at Digital Equipment Corporation in the mid-1980s. A more recent
version, called LaTeX 2e, is an outgrowth of the LaTeX3 project led by
Frank Mittelbach.

AMS-LaTeX, a set of LaTeX enhancements by the American Mathematical
Society, provides enhanced mathematical typesetting capabilities, three
new LaTeX 2e document classes, scores of new math symbols, and four new
math alphabets. Articles written with AMS-LaTeX are of the same high
quality as those found in the journals of the AMS.

Milestone events

Gutenberg invents the printing press.

The calligrapher Feliciano puts the principles of calligraphy on a
sound mathematical footing.

The Italian mathematician Pacioli, the author of one of the first
algebra books ever published, writes an appendix on alphabets in
his De Divina Proportione.

Louis XIV of France commissions the creation of a Royal Alphabet.

Lamport graduates from Brandeis and moves to SRI, where later he
writes the LaTeX macros.

Knuth stops submitting papers to the AMS because "the finished
product was just too painful for me to look at".

Knuth begins his research on typography.

Knuth delivers an AMS Gibbs Lecture entitled Mathematical
Typography [Bull. AMS, vol. 1 (March 1979), no. 2, pp. 337--372] to
the AMS membership at its annual meeting.

Digital Equipment Corporation and the American Mathematical Society
jointly publish Knuth's book TeX and METAFONT: New Directions in
Typesetting, which contains the text of Knuth's Gibbs Lecture.

[1980, October]
The first draft of Spivak's Joy of TeX is announced in TUGboat,
vol. 1, no. 1.

[1982, January 11]
Spivak announces AMS-TeX at the joint math meetings.

[1982, January]
Version 0 of Spivak's Joy of TeX is released.

[1982, September]
Knuth releases dvitype, a model DVI driver.

[1983, December]
Lamport writes a LaTeX manual, the earliest known LaTeX manual in

Addison-Wesley publishes Knuth's The TeXbook, destined to become
the definitive TeX reference.

[1984, September]
Lamport releases version 2.06a of the LaTeX macros.

The Computer Modern (CM) fonts replace the American Modern (AM)
fonts in TeX.

Patashnik releases BibTeX version 0.98 for LaTeX 2.08. [See his
article "BibTeX 1.0", TUGboat, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 269--274,
September 1994.]

[1985, August]
Lamport releases LaTeX 2.09, his last version of the LaTeX macros.
(Incidentally, version 2.09 was to be called "version 3.0", but
Addison-Wesley ignored Lamport's instructions not to publish the
note that mentions 2.09, and instead put it on the copyright
page. So Lamport's last version of LaTeX became known as version
2.09 for posterity.)

Addison-Wesley publishes the first edition of Lamport's reference
manual LaTeX: A Document Preparation System.

[1986, March 26]
Rokicki prints his first page with dvisw, an early DVI printer
driver for the Amiga, on a QMS SmartWriter.

[1986, September]
Rokicki prints his first page with dvips, a DVI to PostScript
translator derived from dvisw in the summer of 1986.

Three Austrians, Partl, Schlegl, and Hyna, release a short
introduction to LaTeX (written in German) into the public domain,
contributing to the popularity of LaTeX in Europe.

Rokicki releases dvidvi, a DVI-to-DVI filter.

Chen and Harrison publish an article describing the program
MakeIndex entitled "Index preparation and processing"
[Software---Practice and Experience, vol. 19 (1988), no. 9,
pp. 897--915].

Blue Sky Research (BSR) releases PostScript Type 3 versions of the
Computer Modern (CM) fonts.

[1989, August 21]
At a TUG meeting at Stanford, Lamport agrees to turn over
maintenance and development of LaTeX to Mittelbach who, along with
Rowley and Schvpf, form the LaTeX3 team.

Mittelbach and Schvpf release the New Font Selection Scheme (NFSS).

The TUG conference at Cork (Ireland) agrees on a 256-character font
layout for TeX. An initial implementation was released later that
year by Schwarz.

The American Mathematical Society releases AMS-LaTeX 1.1, a port of
Spivak's AMS-TeX to LaTeX 2.09. The conversion, which took two
years, was done by Mittelbach and Schvpf, with help by Downes.

Y&Y converts the PostScript Type 3 CM fonts created by BSR in 1988
to "hinted" Type 1 format.

BSR and Y&Y collaborate on Type 1 versions of LaTeX and SliTeX
fonts to accompany the Type 1 CM fonts created in 1990. In the
following year, they create Type 1 versions of the AMS fonts as

Malyshev releases the Paradissa fonts, which are PostScript type 1
versions of the CM fonts.

[1994, June]
The LaTeX3 team introduces LaTeX 2e.

Addison-Wesley publishes The LaTeX Companion by Goossens,
Mittelbach, and Samarin.

Addison-Wesley publishes Lamport's second edition of LaTeX: A
Document Preparation System.

[1994, September]
Malyshev releases version 1.0 of the BaKoMa fonts, PostScript type
1 versions of the CM fonts. Version 1.1 of BaKoMa, released in
November of the same year, includes 88 CM typefaces (60 text fonts,
27 math fonts, and 1 big font) and 52 AMS typefaces.

[1995, February]
The American Mathematical Society releases AMS-LaTeX 1.2, a port of
version 1.1 to LaTeX 2e by Downes and Jones.

Birkhduser publishes Grdtzer's Math into LaTeX: An Introduction to
LaTeX and AMS-LaTeX.

Knappen releases the EC fonts, a version of the CM fonts using the
T1 encoding.

BSR releases its PostScript Type 1 versions of the CM fonts into
the public domain.

Other events

If you have information about any of the following, or anything else of
interest, please mail me.

Knuth uses troff to write a paper.

Knuth releases the first public version of the TeX macros.

The first DVI viewer for platform ?? is released by ??.


History is on our side (as long as we can control the historians).
-- Unknown