Per Brinch Hansen

2002 Computer Pioneer Award Recipient
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“For pioneering development in operating systems and concurrent programming, exemplified by work on the RC4000 multiprogramming system, monitors, and Concurrent Pascal”


Per Brinch Hansen is one of a handful of computer pioneers who was responsible for advancing both operating systems development and concurrent programming from ad hoc techniques to systematic engineering disciplines. His work illustrates a relentless search for simplicity exemplified by the RC 4000 multiprogramming system, the monitor concept, and the programming language Concurrent Pascal.  His work has influenced most operating systems and concurrent programming languages developed over the last twenty-five years.

Brinch Hansen received the master's degree in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark in 1962. Until 1970 he worked at Regnecentralen, Copenhagen, where he was responsible for the architecture and software of the RC 4000 minicomputer. The RC 4000 multiprogramming system introduced the now-standard concept of an operating system kernel and the separation of policy and mechanism in operating system design.  The microkernels and remote procedure calls used in modern operating systems can trace their roots back to the RC 4000 system.  From 1970 to 1972 he was a research associate at Carnegie-Mellon University, where he wrote the first comprehensive textbook on “Operating System Principles” (1973), published in six languages.  Since then his main contribution has been the development of secure programming language concepts for parallel computing.  His most influential early idea was the monitor concept, which combines process synchronization with object-oriented programming. By 1975 he had developed Concurrent Pascal, the first parallel programming language based on monitors. The Solo operating system, written in Concurrent Pascal, demonstrated that it is possible to write simple operating systems in a secure programming language without machine-dependent features.  He wrote the first book on parallel programming, “The Architecture of Concurrent Programs” (1977), which includes the complete program text of the Solo operating system.

Since 1972 Brinch Hansen has held professorial appointments in computer science at California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California and University of Copenhagen, Denmark.  Per Brinch Hansen is a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Syracuse University, a position he has held since 1987.  He was awarded the Doctor Technices degree in 1978 by the Technical University of Denmark. In 1982 he was named the first Henry Salvatori Professor of Computer Science at USC.  Dr. Brinch Hansen was elected an IEEE Fellow in 1985, and received the Chancellor's Medal at Syracuse University in 1989.