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Patrick Cousot
Patrick Cousot

Biography

With the introduction and development of abstract interpretation, Patrick Cousot has provided the computer programming industry with one of the most sweepingly influential and impactful tools in all of computing. Working with his wife Radhia (who passed away in 2014), Cousot’s groundbreaking demonstration in 1977 of abstract interpretation was a fundamental paradigm shift that placed static program analysis on a mathematical footing so that researchers could reason about correctness. It is now the dominating approach to static program analysis and is pervasive in today’s programming tools, including compilers and the interactive development environment. Abstract interpretation provides a foundation for performing automatic program analysis, where the goal is to obtain information about the possible states that a program passes through during execution, but without actually running the program on specific inputs. In compilers, it is used to gather information used to decide which optimizations to employ, thereby allowing programs to run faster. In software-engineering tools, it is used to provide feedback to programmers about a program’s runtime properties, which helps them do a better job of developing, modifying, debugging, and testing programs. In verification tools, it is one of the key techniques used to show that a program never reaches a bad state, thereby establishing that the program is correct with respect to some property of interest. Verification has grown increasingly important as computers and microchip-based controllers have become pervasive, and it is especially crucial regarding critical systems, such as controllers in nuclear reactors, automobile-braking and airbag-deployment systems, and aircraft collision-avoidance systems. Cousot and his team developed the ASTRÉE software system to analyze C programs for the occurrence of runtime errors. ASTRÉE has been applied to many safety-critical applications, such as the flight-control software for the Airbus A340 and A380 aircraft.

An IEEE Member and recipient of the 2008 Humboldt Research Award and the 2014 IEEE Harlan D. Mills Joint Award, Cousot is the Silver Professor of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, New York, New York, USA.