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Niklaus Wirth

Portrait of Niklaus Wirth taken 1969, courtesy of Robert M. McClure.
Portrait of Niklaus Wirth taken 1969, courtesy of Robert M. McClure.

Niklaus Wirth (born February 15, 1934) is a Swiss computer scientist.

Wirth was born in Winterthur, Switzerland. In 1959 he earned a degree in Electronics Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich. In 1960 he earned an M.Sc. from Laval University, Canada. Then in 1963 he was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

From 1963 to 1967 he served as Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and again at the University of Zürich. Then in 1968 he became Professor of Informatics at ETH in Zürich, taking a two year sabbatical at Xerox PARC in California.

Wirth was the chief designer of the programming languages Algol W, Pascal, Modula, Modula-2, and Oberon. He was also a major part of the design and implementation team for the Lilith and Oberon operating systems, and for the Lola digital hardware design and simulation system. He received the Turing Award for the development of these languages.

His article Program Development by Stepwise Refinement is considered to be a classical text in software engineering. He wrote Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs, which gained wide recognition and is still useful today. He retired in 1999.

Europeans tend to pronounce his name properly, as Nih-klaus Virt, while Americans usually mangle it into something like Nickles Worth. That is to say, Europeans call him by name while Americans call him by value.

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45