Alan Perlis

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Alan J. Perlis
Born (1922-04-01)April 1, 1922
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Died February 7, 1990(1990-02-07) (aged 67)
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Computer Science
Institutions Association for Computing Machinery
Carnegie Mellon University
Yale University
Purdue University
Alma mater Carnegie Mellon (B.S., Chemistry, 1943)
MIT (M.S., Mathematics, 1949; Ph.D., Mathematics, 1950)
Thesis On Integral Equations, Their Solution by Iteration and Analytic Continuation (1950)
Doctoral advisor Philip Franklin
Doctoral students Gary Lindstrom
Zohar Manna
David Parnas
Known for IT, ALGOL
Notable awards Turing Award (1966)
Computer Pioneer Award (1985)

Alan Jay Perlis (April 1, 1922 – February 7, 1990) was an American computer scientist known for his pioneering work in programming languages and the first recipient of the Turing Award.[1]


Perlis was born to a Jewish family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1943, he received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army, where he became interested in mathematics. He then earned both a master's degree (1949) and a Ph.D. (1950) in mathematics at MIT. His doctoral dissertation was titled "On Integral Equations, Their Solution by Iteration and Analytic Continuation".

In 1952, he participated in Project Whirlwind.[2] He joined the faculty at Purdue University and then moved to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1956. He was chair of mathematics and then the first head of the Computer Science Department. He was elected president of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1962.

He was awarded the Turing Award in 1966, according to the citation, for his influence in the area of advanced programming techniques and compiler construction. This is a reference to the work he had done as a member of the team that developed the ALGOL programming language.

In 1971, Perlis moved to Yale University to become the chair of Computer Science and hold the Eugene Higgins chair. Perlis was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977.

In 1982, he wrote an article, Epigrams on Programming, for ACM's SIGPLAN journal, describing in one-sentence distillations many of the things he had learned about programming over his career. The epigrams have been widely quoted.[3] He remained at Yale until his death in 1990.


Publications, a selection:[4]

  • 1965. An introductory course in computer programming. With Robert T. Braden.
  • 1970. A view of programming languages. With Bernard A. Galler
  • 1975. Introduction to computer science
  • 1981. Software Metrics: An Analysis and Evaluation. With Frederick Sayward and Mary Shaw
About Alan Perlis


  1. Ulf Hashagen, Reinhard Keil-Slawik, Arthur L. Norberg (2002) History of Computing: Software Issues. p.26
  2. National Academy of Engineering (1979) "Alan Jay Perlis" in: Memorial tributes. Vol 10. p.168
  3. Computer Science quotations
  4. For a listing of his talks and lectures (1951-1988) see Alan J. Perlis Papers, 1942-1989. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

External links