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593 Douglas McIlroy

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M. Douglas McIlroy

An Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth, M. Douglas
McIlroy retired in 1997 from the Computing Sciences Research Center at
Bell Laboratories (formerly AT&T, now Lucent Technologies), where he
was head of the Computing Techniques Research Department from 1965 to
1986, and thereafter was Distinguished Member of Technical Staff.  Best
known as the birthplace of the UNIX operating system, that department
has done wide-ranging theoretical and applied research in programming
languages, compilers, operating systems, design verification,
algorithms, computational complexity, text processing, graphics, image
processing, and computer security.

In the area of computer languages, Dr. McIlroy participated in the
design of PL/I, contributed to C++, and has written unusual compilers
for Lisp, ALTRAN (an algebraic manipulation system), PL/I, and TMG (a
compiler-compiler).  Long interested in stream processing, he
conceived "pipes" as realized in the UNIX operating system,
invented the classic coroutine prime-number sieve, and developed
algorithms for processing power series.  Other research topics
include text and string processing, computer cartography, theorem
proving, and dynamic storage allocation.  The notion of "language
extension" arose from his early work in macroprocessors, and
"software components" from a 1968 NATO paper.  In a lighter vein, he
coauthored Darwin, the first game of survival among self-reproducing
programs.  His more recent research has addressed multilevel security
for UNIX, ultimately accurate bitmap graphics, and full-text indexing.

He participated in the design and construction of the Multics
operating system.  To Unix he contributed many utilities and
subroutines, ranging from the lowly "echo", through "diff" for file
comparison, "spell" for checking spelling, and "join" for database
manipulation, to "speak", the first real-time text-to-speech program.

Dr. McIlroy joined Bell Laboratories in 1958 after earning a
bachelor's degree in engineering physics from Cornell University and a
PhD in applied mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology.  He taught at MIT from 1954 to 1958, and was a visiting
lecturer at Oxford University from 1967 to 1968.

He has served the Association for Computing Machinery as national
lecturer, Turing award chairman, member of the publications planning
committee, and associate editor for Communications, Journal, and
Transactions.  He has served on the executive committee of CSNET (an
evolutionary stage between the exclusive ARPANET and the public
Internet), on various advisory panels to Department of Energy,
Department of Defense, New Jersey Board of Higher Education, and
National Science Foundation.  He was an author of influential National
Research Council reports on computer security ("Computers at Risk",
1990) and directions for academic computer science ("Computing the
Future", 1992).  He is a past officer of the New York Map Society, a
founding member of WG2.3, the International Federation of Information
Processing Societies working group on programming methodology, and a
fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In his previous home town of Bernardsville, New Jersey, Dr. McIlroy
served as chairman of the shade tree commission, chairman of the
environmental commission, member of the planning board, and trustee of
the public library.  He now lives in Hanover, NH, where he
serves on the conservation commission and chairs the trails committee.

updated 07/25/03



  • Eastwood, D.E., and M.D. McIlroy, (1959) Eastwood, D.E., and M.D. McIlroy, "Macro Compiler Modification of SAP," Computer Laboratory Memo, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J., September 1959  E A
  • Eastwood, D. E. and McIlroy, M. D. (1959) Eastwood, D. E. and McIlroy, M. D. "Macro compiler modification of SAP". Bell Telephone Laboratories Computation Center, 1959.  E A
  • McIlroy, M.D., (1960) McIlroy, M.D., "Using SAP Macro Instructions to Manipulate Symbolic Expression," Computer Laboratory Memo, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J., 1960.  E A
  • McIlroy, M. D. (1960) McIlroy, M. D. "Macro Instruction Extension of Compiler Languages"  E A
          in [ACM] (1960) [ACM] CACM 3(04) April 1960  E