Peter Naur

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Peter Naur (2008)

Peter Naur (born October 25, 1928 in Frederiksberg near Copenhagen ; † January 3, 2016 in Herlev , Denmark ) was a Danish computer science pioneer and winner of the Turing Prize . It was named after the development of the BNF (Backus-Naur-Form) notation, which is used to describe the syntax of many programming languages. He was also involved in the development of the Algol 60 programming language .


Naur began his career as an astronomer . During his school days he developed his interest in astronomy and helped in the observatory of the University of Copenhagen with the calculation of comet and planetary orbits. From 1947 he studied at the University of Copenhagen and received his diploma in 1949. From 1950 to 1953 he had various research stays in England and the USA . From 1953 to 1959 he was again a research assistant in Copenhagen, where he received his doctorate in 1957. During this time he also worked as a consultant at Regnecentralen (RC), a Danish computer manufacturer who developed the first Danish computer. His encounter with computers therefore led to a change in his field of expertise. From 1959 to 1969 he was employed by Regnecentralen. There he dealt with higher programming languages ​​and was thus involved in the development of Algol 60. At the same time, he lectured at the Niels Bohr Institute and at Denmark's Technical University . From 1969 to 1998 he was Professor of Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen.

Naur coined the term Datalogie , which was adopted in most Scandinavian countries in place of informatics or computer science (in Denmark and Sweden as datalogi ).

Research areas

His main research areas were the design, structure and performance of computer programs and algorithms . He was also a pioneer in other areas such as software engineering and software architecture . In his book Computing: A Human Activity (1992), which is a collection of his contributions to computer science, he attacked the formalistic school of programming as a branch of mathematics . He did not like to be associated with the Backus-Naur-Form (this was done by Donald Knuth ) and said that he would rather call it Backus-Normal-Form .

In later years, Naur dealt with science as a whole. He can probably be counted as part of the empirical school, which says that one should not look for deeper connections between things, but stick to observable facts as they actually manifest themselves in the world. From this point of view he has criticized certain branches of philosophy and psychology .

Private life

Peter Naur was married several times - including Christiane Floyd  - and had four children. He loved classical music.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c On the death of Peter Naur: Worse than thinking machines are people who do not think. heise online, accessed on January 5, 2016 .