Alan J. Perlis

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Alan "Al" Jay Perlis (born April 1, 1922 in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , † February 7, 1990 in New Haven , Connecticut ) was an American computer scientist who played a key role in making computer science an independent subject at American universities.


Perlis received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (later Carnegie Mellon University ) in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania in 1943 , and his master's degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge in 1949 . There he obtained his doctorate in 1950 with the work On Integral Equations, Their Solution by Iteration and Analytic Continuation with Philip Franklin , and then worked on the Whirlwind computer project (briefly interrupted by his work at the Ballistic Research Laboratory in the Aberdeen Proving Ground ).

From 1952 to 1956 he was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University in West Lafayette , Indiana . During this time he set up the university's computer laboratory. In 1956 he moved to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he initially worked as a professor of mathematics and at the same time as director of the university's Computation Center. From 1958 he offered the first courses on programming, and from 1960 he headed the Faculty of Mathematics. He established the interdisciplinary Systems and Communications Sciences program with Allen Newell , Herbert A. Simon, and others . Between 1962 and 1965 he developed a curriculum for a new subject called Computer Science . It corresponds to IT in Germany. He became the first head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie-Mellon University, founded in 1965. From 1971 on, as a professor of computer science, he helped set up the new department of computer science at Yale University in New Haven , Connecticut , which he also headed from 1976 to 1977 and from 1978 to 1980, interrupted by a visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology .


The focus of Alan J. Perlis' scientific work was the construction of compilers and, above all, the design of programming languages . He developed several compilers for mathematical formula languages, including the Internal Translator (IT) for the IBM 650 computer from 1955 to 1957 . He was also involved in the design of the programming languages Algol 58 and Algol 60 , which had a significant influence on the development of modern programming languages. Together with Renato Iturriaga he developed Formula Algol , an extension of Algol for symbolic mathematics. He also designed the Language for Conversational Computing ( LCC ) programming language for the IBM 360/367 computer . He also became famous for the frequently cited article Epigrams in Programming , which he published in 1982 in the ACM's SIGPLAN magazine . It contains numerous epigrams in which he summarizes his knowledge as a computer scientist in a humorous way.

Perlis' doctoral students include the future computer science professors Gary Lindstrom , Zohar Manna and David Parnas .

His written estate can be found at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.


In 1966, Alan J. Perlis received the ACM's first Turing Prize for his scientific achievements . In 1984 he received the AFIPS Education Award, in 1985 he received the Pioneer Award from the IEEE . He received honorary doctorates from four universities . He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1974) and the National Academy of Engineering of the USA. He was President of the ACM from 1962 to 1964 , having previously been the first editor of Communications of the ACM since 1958 .


Individual evidence

  1. a b Alan Jay Perlis in the Mathematics Genealogy Project (English)Template: MathGenealogyProject / Maintenance / id used Template: MathGenealogyProject / Maintenance / name used
  2. ^ Alan J. Perlis Papers, 1942-1989 at the Charles Babbage Institute , University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, viewed March 10, 2012 (English)
  3. (Link not available) and lecture ( Memento from March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) ( The Synthesis of Algorithmic Systems , PDF; 701 kB) on the occasion of the awarding of the Turing Prize on the ACM website , viewed March 10, 2012