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Alan J. Perlis
Alan Perlis.jpg
Born (1922-04-01)April 1, 1922
Died February 7, 1990(1990-02-07) (aged 67)
Nationality American
Alma mater
Known for
  • IT
  • APL
Scientific career
Fields Computer science
Thesis On Integral Equations, Their Solution by Iteration and Analytic Continuation (1950)
Doctoral advisor Philip Franklin
Doctoral students
  • Gary Lindstrom
  • Zohar Manna
  • David Parnas
  • John R. Levine

Alan Jay Perlis (April 1, 1922 – February 7, 1990) was an American computer scientist and professor at Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University and Yale University. He is best known for his pioneering work in programming languages and was the first recipient of the Turing Award.


Perlis was born to a Jewish family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1939. In 1943, he received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (later renamed 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 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (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 in 1956, moved to the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He was chair of mathematics and then the first head of the computer science department. In 1962, he was elected president of the Association for Computing Machinery.

He was awarded the inaugural 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 on Internal Translator in 1956 (described by Donald Knuth as the first successful compiler), and as a member of the team that developed the programming language ALGOL.

In 1971, Perlis moved to Yale University to take the chair of computer science and hold the Eugene Higgins chair. In 1977, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

In 1982, he wrote an article, "Epigrams on Programming", for Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) 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.

See also

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