Heilmeyer or Helimeier Catechism?

November 11th, 2006

One thing I learned from Gio Wiederhold was the Heilmeyer catechism. Or is it Heilmeier catechism? George Heilmeyer/Heilmeier was the director of ARPA in the mid 1970s and required proposals for new programs to answer these questions.

  • What is the problem, why is it hard?
  • How is it solved today?
  • What is the new technical idea; why can we succeed now?
  • What is the impact if successful?
  • How will the program be organized?
  • How will intermediate results be generated?
  • How will you measure progress?
  • What will it cost?

I’ve found this very helpful over the years when writing research proposals and have suggested that our students use it to organize proposals for projects, theses and dissertations. Occasionally I would google for it and was always surprised at how few references I found. Recently, I discovered that there are quite a few references to it, but as Heilmeier’s Catechism.

What is the correct spelling? Google asks if you meant to enter Heilmeier when you type Heilmeyer, but it’s going on statistics. And we know that they often lie, especially when the information comes from the Web. When you search for “george (H) Heilme?er”, here’s what you get:

Web
site:.mil
site:darpa.mil
heilmeyer
heilmeier

Looking at some of the top results of the heilmeier search, however, convinces me that it’s the probably right spelling. The sources are from "professional" sites, including the national academy of engineering, magazines, the Smithsonian, MITRE, IEEE, and ACM. I have more trust in the information on these sites than I do in random web pages like this one.

So, I guess I will be updating my page soon.