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47 Alan.J. Perlis
1922 - 1990
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After receiving the Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT in 1950, I was employed as a research mathematician in the computing laboratory of the Ballistic Research Lab at Aberdeen Proving Grounds until January 1952. I returned to MIT to work at Project Whirlwind at MIT, developing programs for Whirlwind. In September 1952, I accepted an assistant professorship in mathematics at Purdue. My major responsibility was to guide the development of a university computing facility. An IBM CPC, installed in October 1952, was replaced by a Datatron 205 in the spring of 1954. In 1955, a group of us at Purdue began the development of a compiler for the language IT (Internal Translator) that we had defined. A version was operating at Purdue in 1957. In September 1956, I accepted the position of director of the newly formed computing center and associate professor of mathematics at Carnegie Tech, my alma mater. A version of IT was running on the center's IBM 650 in November 1956 and within a year was in wide use on 650's at a number of university computing centers. Research in programming languages dominated my professional life from then on, and I was honored to become the chairman of the ACM Programming Languages Committee in 1957 and a delegate to the conference in Zurich in 1958 at which ALGOL'S8 was defined. In 1958, I became the first editor of a new publication, the Communications ofthe ACM.

After ALGOL 60, in 1962, I was elected president of the ACM. I was chairman of the math department at Carnegie from 1960 to 1964 and co-chairman of an interdisciplinary doctoral program in systems and communications sciences that led to the establishment of a large ARPA supported program in computer science that, in turn, prompted the establishment in 1965 of a graduate department of computer science. I became the first chairman of that department and gave up my directorship of the computation center. During the 1960s I was a member of both the NIH and NSF advisory computer committees and a member of the NAS Computer Science & Engineering Board.

In 1966, I gave the first ACM Turing lecture. I have received three honorary doctorates in science from Davis and Elkins, Waterloo, and Purdue. In 1971, I accepted the Eugene Higgins Chair in Computer Science at Yale. In 1977, I was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.




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