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Dennis Ritchie

Date of birth : 1941-09-09
Date of death : 2011-10-12
Birthplace : Bronxville, New York, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2012-01-17

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie was an American computer scientist who "helped shape the digital era."

Native from Bronxville, New York, Ritchie created the C programming language and, with long-time colleague Ken Thompson, the Unix operating system. Later in 1983, Ritchie and Thompson received the Turing Award from the ACM, and the Hamming Medal from the IEEE in 1990. In 1999 the two received the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton.

Graduated from Harvard University with degrees in physics and applied mathematics, Ritchie began working in 1967 at the Bell Labs Computing Sciences Research Center, and in 1968, he received a PhD from Harvard under the supervision of Patrick C. Fischer, his doctoral dissertation being "Program Structure and Computational Complexity".

He created the C programming language, a key developer of the Unix operating system, and co-author of The C Programming Language, and was the 'R' in K&R (a common reference to the book's authors Kernighan and Ritchie). Ritchie worked together with Ken Thompson, the scientist credited with writing the original Unix; one of Ritchie's most important contributions to Unix was its porting to different machines and platforms.

The C language is widely used today in application, operating system, and embedded system development, and its influence is seen in most modern programming languages. Unix has also been influential, establishing concepts and principles that are now precepts of computing.

Ritchie was the head of Lucent Technologies System Software Research Department when he retired in 2007.

Ritchie was found dead on October 12, 2011, at the age of 70 at his home in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, where he lived alone.

Awards and legacy:

Turing Award (1983) - Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie
Ritchie and Thompson received the Turing Award for their development of generic operating systems theory and specifically for the implementation of the UNIX operating system. Ritchie's Turing Award lecture was titled "Reflections on Software Research".

IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal (1990)
Ritchie and Thompson received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), "for the origination of the UNIX operating system and the C programming language".

Fellow of the Computer History Museum (1997)
Ritchie and Thompson were made Fellows of the Computer History Museum, "for co-creation of the UNIX operating system, and for development of the C programming language."

National Medal of Technology (1999)
On April 21, 1999, Thompson and Ritchie jointly received the National Medal of Technology of 1998 from President Bill Clinton for co-inventing the UNIX operating system and the C programming language which, according to the citation for the medal, "led to enormous advances in computer hardware, software, and networking systems and stimulated growth of an entire industry, thereby enhancing American leadership in the Information Age".

Japan Prize (2011)
Along with Thompson, Ritchie was awarded the Japan Prize for Information and Communications for his work in the development of the Unix operating system.


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