Joel S. Birnbaum

Joel S. Birnbaum
Joel S. Birnbaum
New York, NY, USA
Associated organizations
IBM, Hewlett-Packard
Fields of study
IEEE Ernst Weber Managerial Leadership Award


Born on 20 December 1937, in the Bronx, New York, Dr. Joel S. Birnbaum obtained a B.Eng. degree from Cornell University in 1960, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, both in Nuclear Physics, from Yale University in 1961 and 1965, respectively.

Praised for his visionary leadership skills, Dr. Birnbaum led influential research laboratories at both IBM and Hewlett Packard during separate, immensely productive periods. While organizations he led made major contributions to countless technologies, his career is especially marked by numerous innovations in Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) technology.

Dr. Birnbaum joined the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in 1965, and became Director of Computer Sciences there a decade later. His best-known personal work at IBM was in real-time data acquisition and control systems (resulting in several IBM products), and in computer architecture, where he was the original manager and spokesperson for the 801 project, which resulted in a groundbreaking RISC machine.

At the end of 1980, Dr. Birnbaum became the founding director of the Computer Research Center of HP Laboratories in Palo Alto, where he developed a vision of pervasive computing that seeks to transform heterogeneous computer networks into a ubiquitous information utility, with services provided through dedicated information appliances that are intuitive to use. The strategy of HP today is an implementation of this vision. He supervised immeasurable important research, including the definition of a new architecture for all HP computer products, known today as PA-RISC. After a series of promotions, Dr. Birnbaum became Senior VP of Research and Development for HP Upon his 1999 retirement, he became Chief Scientist, a newly-created strategic consulting position. Dr. Birnbaum's leadership was integral to the development of countless products, including a leading system and network management product line, a leading software engineering platform, inkjet printing, electronic, biochemical and medical measurement systems, solid-state materials devices and systems, communication systems, and digital photography. His work was significant in the development of various IEEE standards.

Dr. Birnbaum's many honors include election to the National Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Engineering. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and the California Council of Science and Technology, and a Sheffield Fellow at Yale. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Technion University of Israel, and serves on engineering advisory councils at Stanford University; UC Berkeley; Carnegie-Mellon University; and Yale University He also serves on several corporate and community boards.