Frederick P. Brooks, Jr


Frederick P. Brooks, Jr
Frederick P. Brooks, Jr
Durham, NC, USA
Death date
Associated organizations
IBM, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fields of study
IEEE John von Neumann Medal


Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. was born in 1931 in Durham, North Carolina. He received the A.B. in Physics from Duke University in 1953, and the Ph.D. in Computer Science from Harvard University in 1956, under Howard Aiken.

Dr. Brooks joined IBM Corporation, working in Poughkeepsie and Yorktown, New York, from 1956 to 1965. He was an architect of the Stretch and Harvest computers and then was manager for the development of IBM's System/360 family of computers and OS /360 software. For this work, he received a National Medal of Technology.

In 1957, Dr. Brooks and Dura Sweeney invented a Stretch interrupt system that introduced most features of today's interrupt systems. Dr. Brooks coined the term computer architecture. His System / 360 team first achieved strict compatibility, upward and downward, in a computer family. His early concern for word processing led to his selection of the 8-bit byte and the lowercase alphabet for the System/ 360, engineering of many new 8-bit input / output devices, and providing a character-string datatype in PL/I.

In 1964, Dr. Brooks founded the Computer Science Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chaired it for 20 years. He was Kenan Professor of Computer Science. His principal research is in real-time, three-dimensional, computer graphics - "virtual reality." His research has helped biochemists solve the structure of complex molecules and enabled architects to "walk through" buildings still being designed. He is pioneering the use of force display to supplement visual graphics. Dr. Brooks distilled the successes and failures of the development of Operating System / 360 in The Mythical Man-Month: Essays in Software Engineering, (1975). He further examined software engineering in his well-known 1986 paper, "No Silver Bullet." He has just completed a two-volume research monograph, Computer Architecture, with Professor Gerrit Blaauw.

Dr. Brooks served on the National Science Board and the Defense Science Board. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received the IEEE Computer Society's McDowell and Computer Pioneer Awards, the ACM Distinguished Service Award, the AFIPS Harry Goode Award, and an honorary doctorate from ETH-Zurich.