Why You Ought to Think about Utilizing Fortran As A Knowledge Scientist | by Egor Howell | Might, 2023

An exploration of the advantages that Fortran can deliver to Knowledge Science and Machine Studying

Photograph by Federica Galli on Unsplash

Python is extensively thought of the gold normal language for Knowledge Science, and your entire vary of packages, literature, and assets associated to Knowledge Science is all the time obtainable in Python. This isn’t essentially a nasty factor, because it implies that there are quite a few documented options for any data-related downside that you could be encounter.

Nevertheless, with the arrival of bigger datasets and the rise of extra advanced fashions, it could be time to discover different languages. That is the place the old-timer, Fortran, might turn into standard once more. Subsequently, it’s worthwhile for as we speak’s Knowledge Scientists to turn into conscious of it and possibly even attempt to implement some options.

Fortran, brief for Formulation Translator, was the primary extensively used programming language that originated within the Nineteen Fifties. Regardless of its age, it stays a high-performance computing language and can be faster than both C and C++.

Initially designed for scientists and engineers to run large-scale fashions and simulations in areas reminiscent of fluid dynamics and natural chemistry, Fortran continues to be steadily used as we speak by physicists. I even realized it throughout my physics undergrad!

Its specialty lies in modelling and simulations, that are important for quite a few fields, together with Machine Studying. Subsequently, Fortran is completely poised to deal with Knowledge Science issues, as that’s precisely what it was invented to do many years in the past.

Fortran has a number of key benefits over different programming languages reminiscent of C++ and Python. Listed here are among the details:

  • Simple to Learn: Fortran is a compact language with solely 5 native information sorts: INTEGER, REAL, COMPLEX, LOGICAL, and CHARACTER. This simplicity makes it simple to learn and perceive, particularly for scientific functions.
  • High Performance: Fortran is commonly used to benchmark the pace of high-performance computer systems.
  • Massive Libraries: Fortran has a variety of libraries obtainable, primarily for scientific functions. These libraries present builders with an unlimited array of features and instruments for performing advanced calculations and simulations.
  • Historic Array Help: Fortran has had multi-dimensional array help from the start, which is important for Machine Studying and Knowledge Science reminiscent of Neural Networks.
  • Designed for Engineers and Scientists: Fortran was constructed particularly for pure quantity crunching, which is completely different from the extra general-purpose use of C/C++ and Python.

Nevertheless, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Listed here are a few of Fortran’s drawbacks:

  • Textual content operations: Not excellent for characters and textual content manipulation, so not optimum for natural language processing.
  • Python has extra packages: Regardless that Fortran has many libraries, it’s removed from the overall quantity in Python.
  • Small neighborhood: The Fortran language has not bought as massive a following as different languages. This implies it hasn’t bought quite a lot of IDE and plugin help or stack overflow solutions!
  • Not appropriate for a lot of functions: It’s explicitly a scientific language, so don’t attempt to construct an internet site with it!


Let’s rapidly go over the way to set up Fortran in your laptop. First, you need to set up Homebrew (link here), which is a package deal supervisor for MacOS.

To put in Homebrew, merely run the command from their web site:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL up/HEAD/set"

You’ll be able to confirm Homebrew is put in by operating the command brew assist. If there are not any errors, then Homebrew has been efficiently put in in your system.

GCC Compiler

As Fortran is a compiled language, we want a compiler that may compile Fortran supply code. Sadly, MacOS doesn’t ship with a Fortran compiler pre-installed, so we have to set up one ourselves.

A well-liked choice is the GCC (GNU Compiler Assortment) compiler, which you’ll be able to set up by means of Homebrew: brew set up gcc. The GCC compiler is a set of compilers for languages like C, Go, and naturally Fortran. The Fortran compiler within the GCC group is known as gfortran, that may compile all main variations of Fortran reminiscent of 77, 90, 95, 2003, and 2008. It is strongly recommended to make use of the .f90 extension for Fortran code recordsdata, though there’s some discussion on this topic.

To confirm that gfortran and GCC have been efficiently put in, run the command which fortran. The output ought to look one thing like this:


The gfortran compiler is by far the preferred, nevertheless there are a number of different compilers on the market. A listing of might be discovered here.

IDE’s & Textual content Editors

As soon as now we have our Fortran compiler, the following step is to decide on an Built-in Growth Atmosphere (IDE) or textual content editor to jot down our Fortran supply code in. It is a matter of non-public desire since there are various choices obtainable. Personally, I take advantage of PyCharm and set up the Fortran plugin as a result of I favor to not have a number of IDEs. Different standard textual content editors steered by the Fortran website embrace Sublime Text, Notepad++, and Emacs.

Working a Program

Earlier than we go onto our first program, it is very important word that I gained’t be doing a syntax or command tutorial on this article. Linked here is a brief information that may cowl all the fundamental syntax.

Beneath is an easy program known as instance.f90:

GitHub Gist by writer.

Right here’s how we compile it:

gfortran -o instance instance.f90  

This command compiles the code and creates an executable file named instance. You’ll be able to change instance with another identify you favor. When you don’t specify a reputation utilizing the -o flag, the compiler will use a default identify which is often a.out for many Unix primarily based working methods.

Right here’s the way to run the instance executable:


The ./ prefix is included to point that the executable is within the present listing. The output from this command will appear to be this:

 Good day world

Now, lets deal with a extra ‘actual’ downside!


The knapsack problem is a widely known combinatorial optimization downside that poses:

A set of things, every with a worth and weight, should be packed right into a knapsack that maximizes the overall worth while respecting the load constraint of the knapsack

Though the issue sounds easy, the variety of options will increase exponentially with the variety of objects. Thus, making it intractable to unravel by brute force past a sure variety of objects.

Heuristic strategies reminiscent of genetic algorithms can be utilized to discover a ‘ok’ or ‘approximate’ resolution in an inexpensive period of time. When you’re focused on studying the way to resolve the knapsack downside utilizing the genetic algorithm, take a look at my earlier publish:

The knapsack downside has sundry functions in Knowledge Science and Operations Research, together with inventory administration and provide chain effectivity, rendering it essential to unravel effectively for enterprise choices.

On this part, we’ll see how rapidly Fortran can resolve the knapsack downside by pure brute-force in comparison with Python.

Word: We will likely be specializing in the fundamental model, which is the 0–1 knapsack problem the place every merchandise is both absolutely within the knapsack or not in in any respect.


Let’s begin with Python.

The next code solves the knapsack downside for 22 objects utilizing a brute-force search. Every merchandise is encoded as a 0 (not in) or 1 (in) in a 22-element size array (every ingredient refers to an merchandise). As every merchandise has solely 2 doable values, the variety of complete combos is 2^(num_items). We utilise the itertools.product technique that computes the cartesian product of all of the doable options after which we iterate by means of them.

GitHub Gist by writer.

The output of this code:

Gadgets in finest resolution:
Merchandise 1: weight=10, worth=10
Merchandise 6: weight=60, worth=68
Merchandise 7: weight=70, worth=75
Merchandise 8: weight=80, worth=58
Merchandise 17: weight=170, worth=200
Merchandise 19: weight=190, worth=300
Merchandise 21: weight=210, worth=400
Whole worth: 1111
Time taken: 13.78832197189331 seconds


Now, let’s resolve the identical downside, with the identical precise variables, however in Fortran. Not like Python, Fortran doesn’t comprise a package deal for performing permutations and combos operations.

Our strategy is to make use of the modulo operator to transform the iteration quantity right into a binary illustration. For instance, if the iteration quantity is 6, the modulo of 6 by 2 is 0, which suggests the primary merchandise will not be chosen. We then divide the iteration quantity by 2 to shift the bits to the correct and take the modulo once more to get the binary illustration for the following merchandise. That is repeated for each merchandise (so 22 instances) and ultimately leads us to getting each doable mixture.

GitHub Gist by writer.

Compile and execute utilizing the linux time command:

time gfortran -o brute brute_force.f90
time ./brute


 Gadgets in finest resolution:
Merchandise: 1 Weight: 10 Worth: 10
Merchandise: 6 Weight: 60 Worth: 68
Merchandise: 7 Weight: 70 Worth: 75
Merchandise: 8 Weight: 80 Worth: 58
Merchandise: 17 Weight: 170 Worth: 200
Merchandise: 19 Weight: 190 Worth: 300
Merchandise: 21 Weight: 210 Worth: 400
Finest worth discovered: 1111
./brute 0.26s consumer 0.01s system 41% cpu 0.645 complete

The Fortran code is ~21 instances faster!


To get a extra visible comparability, we will plot the execution time as a perform of the variety of objects:

Plot generated by writer in Python.

Fortran blows Python out of the water!

Regardless that thte compute time for Fortran does improve, its progress will not be almost as massive as it’s for Python. This really shows the computational energy of Fortran relating to fixing optimisation issues, that are of vital significance in lots of areas of Knowledge Science.

Though Python has been the go-to for Knowledge Science, languages like Fortran can nonetheless present vital worth particularly when coping with optimisation issues resulting from its inherent number-crunching skills. It outperforms Python in fixing the knapsack downside by brute-force, and the efficiency hole widens additional as extra objects are added to the issue. Subsequently, as a Knowledge Scientist, you would possibly need to think about investing your time in Fortran should you want an edge in computational energy to unravel your online business and business issues.

The complete code used on this article might be discovered at my GitHub right here:

(All emojis designed by OpenMoji — the open-source emoji and icon challenge. License: CC BY-SA 4.0)

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