|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.
Perlis was born 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. He joined the faculty
at Purdue University and then moved to Carnegie Institute 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.
He remained at Yale until his death in 1990.
Alan is survived by three children and four grandchildren. His
children currently live in Rome and Washington D.C.