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Communications of the ACM


In Memoriam: Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. 1931-2022

Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.

Credit: Jerry Markatos

Generations of computing professionals may remember Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., as the author of the seminal text on system engineering, The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineeringa and his essays such as No Silver Bullet—Essence and Accident in Software Engineering.b Those who worked with Brooks, winner of the 1999 ACM A.M. Turing Award "for landmark contributions to computer architecture, operating systems, and software engineering," may also remember him as the lead designer of IBM's System/360, as an innovator in graphics and virtual reality, and as the founder of the University of North Carolina's computer science department.

Brooks was born on April 19, 1931, in Greenville, North Carolina. He received his A.B. in Physics from Duke University in 1953. As a freshman, he saw an article in the January 23, 1950 issue of Time Magazine entitled "The Thinking Machine" that sparked his interest in computing. Brooks went on to complete his Ph.D. in applied mathematics at Harvard University, where he studied with computer pioneer Howard Aiken. After graduating in 1956, IBM recruited him to work on the "Stretch" 7030, IBM's first transistorized supercomputer, and on Harvest, a one-of-a-kind code-breaking computer that was being built for the U.S. National Security Agency. While working on the Stretch, Brooks is credited with coining the term "computer architecture."


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