Biography:Fred Brooks

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Short description: American computer scientist (1931–2022)
Fred Brooks
Fred Brooks (cropped square).jpg
Fred Brooks in 2007
Frederick Phillips Brooks Jr.

(1931-04-19)April 19, 1931
Durham, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedNovember 17, 2022(2022-11-17) (aged 91)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
Alma mater
Known for
Nancy Lee Greenwood (m. 1956)
  • IEEE John von Neumann Medal (1993)
  • ACM Fellow (1994)
  • Turing Award (1999)
  • Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2001)
  • Turing Lecture (2005)
Scientific career
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Duke University
Harvard University
ThesisThe Analytic Design of Automatic Data Processing Systems (1956)
Doctoral advisorHoward H. Aiken[3]
Doctoral studentsAndrew Glassner[3]

Frederick Phillips Brooks Jr. (April 19, 1931 – November 17, 2022) was an American computer architect, software engineer, and computer scientist, best known for managing the development of IBM's System/360 family of computers and the OS/360 software support package, then later writing candidly about those experiences in his seminal book The Mythical Man-Month.[1]

In 1976, Brooks was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for "contributions to computer system design and the development of academic programs in computer sciences".[4]

Brooks received many awards, including the National Medal of Technology in 1985 and the Turing Award in 1999.[5][6]


Born on April 19, 1931, in Durham, North Carolina,[7] he attended Duke University, graduating in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics, and he received a Ph.D. in applied mathematics (computer science) from Harvard University in 1956, supervised by Howard Aiken.[3]

Brooks served as the graduate teaching assistant for Ken Iverson at Harvard's graduate program in "automatic data processing", the first such program in the world.[8][9][10]

Career and research

Brooks joined IBM in 1956, working in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Yorktown, New York. He worked on the architecture of the IBM 7030 Stretch, a $10 million scientific supercomputer of which nine were sold, and the IBM 7950 Harvest computer for the National Security Agency. Subsequently, he became manager for the development of the IBM System/360 family of computers and the OS/360 software package. During this time he coined the term "computer architecture".[7]

In 1964, Brooks accepted an invitation to come to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and founded the university's computer science department. He chaired it for 20 years. (As of 2013) he was still engaged in active research there, primarily in virtual environments[11] and scientific visualization.[12]

A few years after leaving IBM, he wrote The Mythical Man-Month. The seed for the book was planted by IBM's then-CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr., who asked in Brooks's exit interview why it was so much harder to manage software projects than hardware projects. In this book, Brooks made the now-famous statement: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later", which has since come to be known as Brooks's law.[13] In addition to The Mythical Man-Month, Brooks is also known for the paper "No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accident in Software Engineering".[14][15]

In 2004 in a talk at the Computer History Museum and also in a 2010 interview in Wired magazine, Brooks was asked "What do you consider your greatest technological achievement?" Brooks responded, "The most important single decision I ever made was to change the IBM 360 series from a 6-bit byte to an 8-bit byte, thereby enabling the use of lowercase letters. That change propagated everywhere."[16]

A "20th anniversary" edition of The Mythical Man-Month with four additional chapters was published in 1995.[17][18]

As well as The Mythical Man-Month,[1] Brooks has authored or co-authored many books and peer reviewed papers[5] including Automatic Data Processing,[19] "No Silver Bullet",[14] Computer Architecture,[20] and The Design of Design.[21]

His contributions to human–computer interaction are described in Ben Shneiderman's HCI pioneers website.[22]

Service and memberships

Brooks served on a number of US national boards and committees, including:[23]

  • Defense Science Board (1983–86)
  • Member, Artificial Intelligence Task Force (1983–84)
  • Chairman, Military Software Task Force (1985–87)
  • Member, Computers in Simulation and Training Task Force (1986–87)
  • National Science Board (1987–92)

Awards and honors

In chronological order:[23]

  • Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (1968)
  • W. Wallace McDowell Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Computer Art, IEEE Computer Group (1970)
  • Computer Sciences Distinguished Information Services Award, Information Technology Professionals (1970)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship for studies on computer architecture and human factors of computer systems, University of Cambridge, England (1975)
  • Member, National Academy of Engineering (1976)
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1976)
  • Computer Pioneer Award, IEEE Computer Society (1982)
  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation (1985)
  • Thomas Jefferson Award, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1986)
  • Distinguished Service Award, Association for Computing Machinery (1987)
  • Harry Goode Memorial Award, American Federation of Information Processing Societies (1989)
  • Foreign Member, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991)[24]
  • Honorary Doctor of Technical Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich (1991)
  • IEEE John von Neumann Medal, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (1993)
  • Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (1994)[25]
  • Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society (DFBCS) (1994)
  • International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng), UK (1994)
  • Allen Newell Award, Association for Computing Machinery (1994)[26]
  • Bower Award and Prize in Science, Franklin Institute (1995)
  • CyberEdge Journal Annual Sutherland Award (April 1997)
  • Turing Award, Association for Computing Machinery (1999)
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences (2001)
  • Received the Computer History Museum's Fellow Award, for his contributions to computer architecture, operating systems, and software engineering.[27] (2001)
  • Eckert–Mauchly Award, Association for Computing Machinery and The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers–Computer Society (2004)
  • IEEE Virtual Reality Career Award (2010)

In January 2005, he gave the Turing Lecture on the subject of "Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design".[28][29]

Personal life

Brooks was an evangelical Christian who was active with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.[30]

Brooks married Nancy Lee Greenwood in 1956. They have three children.[7] He named his eldest son after Kenneth E. Iverson.[31]

Brooks died on November 17, 2022, at age 91. He had been in poor health following a stroke.[32][33][34][35]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Brooks, Frederick P. (1975). The mythical man-month: essays on software engineering. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-201-00650-6. 
  2. Brooks, F. P. (1960). "The execute operations—a fourth mode of instruction sequencing". Communications of the ACM 3 (3): 168–170. doi:10.1145/367149.367168. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Fred Brooks at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. "NAE Website – Dr. Frederick P. Brooks". National Academy of Engineering. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 {{DBLP}} template missing ID and not present in Wikidata.
  6. Shustek, Len (2015). "An interview with Fred Brooks". Communications of the ACM 58 (11): 36–40. doi:10.1145/2822519. ISSN 0001-0782. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Booch, Grady (1999). "Frederick Brooks - A.M. Turing Award Laureate". Association for Computing Machinery. 
  8. Iverson, Kenneth E. (June 1954). Arvid W. Jacobson. ed. "Graduate Instruction and Research". Proceedings of the First Conference on Training Personnel for the Computing Machine Field. Retrieved April 9, 2016. 
  9. Iverson, Kenneth E. (December 1991). "A Personal View of APL". IBM Systems Journal 30 (4): 582–593. doi:10.1147/sj.304.0582. Retrieved April 9, 2016. 
  10. Makin' Numbers. MIT Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-262-03263-6. 
  11. Brooks, Frederick P. Jr. (1999). "What's Real About Virtual Reality". Computer Graphics & Applications 19 (6): 16–27. doi:10.1109/38.799723. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  12. "IBM Archives – Frederick P. Brooks Jr.". IBM. January 23, 2003. 
  13. McConnell, Steve (1999). From the Editor: Brooks' Law Repealed. 16. IEEE Computer Society. pp. 6–8. doi:10.1109/MS.1999.10032. Retrieved November 20, 2022. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Brooks, F. P. Jr. (1987). "No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering". Computer 20 (4): 10–19. doi:10.1109/MC.1987.1663532. 
  15. Grier, David Alan (February 2021). "There Is Still No Silver Bullet". Computer 54 (2): 60–62. doi:10.1109/MC.2020.3042682. Retrieved November 20, 2022. "No article has been so central to the discussion as "No Silver Bullet" by Frederick P. Brooks. Yet, almost 35 years after he wrote this contribution to knowledge, Brooks's observation remains true.". 
  16. Kelly, Kevin (July 28, 2010). "Master Planner: Fred Brooks Shows How to Design Anything". Wired. Retrieved April 8, 2019. 
  17. "The Mythical Man-Month, A Book Review". 
  18. Bartlett, Roscoe A. (2008). "Software Engineering Reading List" (in en). 
  19. Iverson, Kenneth E.; Brooks, Frederick P. (1969). Automatic data processing: System/360 edition. New York: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-10605-0. 
  20. Brooks, Frederick P.; Blaauw, Gerrit A. (1997). Computer architecture: concepts and evolution. Boston: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-201-10557-5. 
  21. Brooks, Frederick P. (2010). The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 978-0-201-36298-5. 
  22. "Encounters with HCI Pioneers - A Personal Photo Journal" (in en-US). Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Pioneers Project. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.". April 19, 2007. 
  24. "F.P. Brooks". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. 
  25. "Fred Brooks ACM awards". 
  26. Brooks, Frederick P. (1996). "The computer scientist as toolsmith II". Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) 39 (3): 61–68. doi:10.1145/227234.227243. ISSN 0001-0782. "“The scientist builds in order to study; the engineer studies in order to build”". 
  27. "Frederick P. Brooks – CHM Fellow Award Winner". March 30, 2015.,Brooks/. 
  28. "Turing Lecture – IET Conferences" ( Institution of Engineering and Technology. 2015. "2005 – Professor Fred Brooks Jr, FREng Dist. FBCS Founding Kenan Professor of Computer Science University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design" 
  29. Brooks, Frederick P. (January 20, 2005). "7th Annual Turing Lecture: Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design" (video). Institution of Engineering and Technology. 
  30. Faculty Biography at UNC.
  31. Brooks, Frederick P. (August 2006). "The Language, the Mind, and the Man". Vector 22 (3). Retrieved March 16, 2018. 
  32. Lohr, Steve (November 23, 2022). "Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Computer Design Innovator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. 
  33. Grüner, Sebastian (November 18, 2022). "8-Bit-Byte-Erfinder Fred Brooks gestorben" (in German). 
  34. "Remembering Department Founder Dr. Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.". November 18, 2022. 
  35. "Frederick P. Brooks Jr.'s Obituary (1931–2022)" ( The Herald Sun. November 20, 2022. 

External links