Fred Brooks

Last updated
Fred Brooks

Fred Brooks.jpg
2007 photo
Frederick Phillips Brooks Jr.

(1931-04-19) April 19, 1931 (age 88)
Durham, North Carolina
Nationality United States
Alma mater Duke University (undergraduate)
Harvard University (postgraduate)
Known for OS/360
The Mythical Man-Month [1]
Spouse(s)Nancy Greenwood Brooks
ChildrenKenneth, Roger, Barbara
Scientific career
Fields Computer science
Operating systems
Software engineering
Institutions IBM [2]
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Duke University
Harvard University
Thesis The Analytic Design of Automatic Data Processing Systems  (1956)
Doctoral advisor Howard Aiken [3]
Doctoral students Andrew S. Glassner

Frederick Phillips "Fred" Brooks Jr. (born April 19, 1931) is 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 the process in his seminal book The Mythical Man-Month . [1] Brooks has received many awards, including the National Medal of Technology in 1985 and the Turing Award in 1999. [4] [5]

Software engineer Practitioner of software engineering

A software engineer is a person who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of computer software.

A computer scientist is a person who has acquired the knowledge of computer science, the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their application.

IBM American multinational technology and consulting corporation

The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational information technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The company began in 1911, founded in Endicott, New York, as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) and was renamed "International Business Machines" in 1924. IBM is incorporated in New York.



Born in Durham, North Carolina, 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]

Durham, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Durham (/ˈdʌrəm/) is a city in and the county seat of Durham County in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Small portions of the city limits extend into Orange County and Wake County. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population to be 274,291 as of July 1, 2018, making it the 4th-most populous city in North Carolina, and the 79th-most populous city in the United States. The city is located in the east-central part of the Piedmont region along the Eno River. Durham is the core of the four-county Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Area, which has a population of 542,710 as of U.S. Census 2014 Population Estimates. The US Office of Management and Budget also includes Durham as a part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area, commonly known as the Research Triangle, which has a population of 2,037,430 as of U.S. Census 2014 Population Estimates.

Duke University Private university in Durham, North Carolina, United States

Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment and the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke.

A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years, or a person holding such a degree.

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. [6] [7] [8]

Kenneth E. Iverson Canadian computer scientist

Kenneth Eugene Iverson was a Canadian computer scientist noted for the development of the programming language APL. He was honored with the Turing Award in 1979 "for his pioneering effort in programming languages and mathematical notation resulting in what the computing field now knows as APL; for his contributions to the implementation of interactive systems, to educational uses of APL, and to programming language theory and practice".

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".

Poughkeepsie, New York City in New York, United States

Poughkeepsie, officially the City of Poughkeepsie, separate from the Town of Poughkeepsie, is a city in the state of New York, United States, which is the county seat of Dutchess County. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 32,736. Poughkeepsie is in the Hudson Valley midway between New York City and Albany, and is part of the Poughkeepsie–Newburgh–Middletown Metropolitan Statistical Area. The name derives from a word in the Wappinger language, roughly U-puku-ipi-sing, meaning "the reed-covered lodge by the little-water place", referring to a spring or stream feeding into the Hudson River south of the present downtown area.

Yorktown, New York Town in New York, United States

Yorktown is a town on the northern border of Westchester County, New York. A suburb of the New York City metropolitan area, it is approximately 38 miles (61 km) north of midtown Manhattan. The population was 36,081 at the 2010 U.S. Census.

IBM 7030 Stretch first IBM supercomputer using dedicated transistors

The IBM 7030, also known as Stretch, was IBM's first transistorized supercomputer. It was the fastest computer in the world from 1961 until the first CDC 6600 became operational in 1964.

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 [9] and scientific visualization. [10]

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also known as UNC, UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Chapel Hill, or simply Carolina is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is the flagship of the 17 campuses of the University of North Carolina system. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795, which also allows it to be one of three schools to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States. Among the claimants, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only one to have held classes and graduated students as a public university in the eighteenth century.

Virtual reality Computer-simulated environment simulating physical presence in real or imagined worlds

Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Applications of virtual reality can include entertainment and educational purposes. Other, distinct types of VR style technology include augmented reality and mixed reality.

Scientific visualization Field of computer graphics concerned with presenting scientific data visually

Scientific visualization is an interdisciplinary branch of science concerned with the visualization of scientific phenomena. It is also considered a subset of computer graphics, a branch of computer science. The purpose of scientific visualization is to graphically illustrate scientific data to enable scientists to understand, illustrate, and glean insight from their data.

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 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." This has since come to be known as Brooks's law . In addition to The Mythical Man-Month, Brooks is also known for the paper No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accident in Software Engineering .

<i>The Mythical Man-Month</i> book on software engineering and project management by Fred Brooks

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering is a book on software engineering and project management by Fred Brooks first published in 1975, with subsequent editions in 1982 and 1995. Its central theme is that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later". This idea is known as Brooks' law, and is presented along with the second-system effect and advocacy of prototyping.

Thomas Watson Jr. American businessman and diplomat

Thomas John Watson Jr. was an American businessman, political figure, and philanthropist. He was the 2nd president of IBM (1952–1971), the 11th national president of the Boy Scouts of America (1964–1968), and the 16th United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1979–1981). He received many honors during his lifetime, including being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. FORTUNE called him "the greatest capitalist in history" and TIME listed him as one of "100 most influential people of the 20th century".

Brooks' law is an observation about software project management according to which "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later". It was coined by Fred Brooks in his 1975 book The Mythical Man-Month. According to Brooks, there is an incremental person who, when added to a project, makes it take more, not less time. This is similar to the general law of diminishing returns in economics.

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." [11]

A "20th anniversary" edition of The Mythical Man-Month with four additional chapters was published in 1995. [12]

As well as The Mythical Man-Month, [1] Brooks has authored or co-authored many books and peer reviewed papers [4] including Automatic Data Processing, [13] "No Silver Bullet", [14] Computer Architecture, [15] and The Design of Design . [16]

His contributions to human–computer interaction are described in Ben Shneiderman's HCI pioneers website. [17]

Service and memberships

Brooks has served on a number of US national boards and committees. [18]

Awards and honors

In chronological order: [18]

In January 2005 he gave the Turing Lecture on the subject of "Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design". In 1994 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery.

Personal life

Brooks is an evangelical Christian who is active with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. [21]

Brooks named his eldest son after Kenneth E. Iverson. [22]

Related Research Articles

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is an international learned society for computing. It was founded in 1947, and is the world's largest scientific and educational computing society. The ACM is a non-profit professional membership group, claiming nearly 100,000 student and professional members as of 2019. Its headquarters are in New York City.

The second-system effect is the tendency of small, elegant, and successful systems, to be succeeded by over-engineered, bloated systems, due to inflated expectations and overconfidence.

John Backus American computer scientist

John Warner Backus was an American computer scientist. He directed the team that invented and implemented FORTRAN, the first widely used high-level programming language, and was the inventor of the Backus–Naur form (BNF), a widely used notation to define formal language syntax. He later did research into the function-level programming paradigm, presenting his findings in his influential 1977 Turing Award lecture "Can Programming Be Liberated from the von Neumann Style?"

Allen Newell was a researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND Corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, Tepper School of Business, and Department of Psychology. He contributed to the Information Processing Language (1956) and two of the earliest AI programs, the Logic Theory Machine (1956) and the General Problem Solver (1957). He was awarded the ACM's A.M. Turing Award along with Herbert A. Simon in 1975 for their basic contributions to artificial intelligence and the psychology of human cognition.

Charles Bachman American computer scientist

Charles William Bachman III was an American computer scientist, who spent his entire career as an industrial researcher, developer, and manager rather than in academia. He was particularly known for his work in the early development of database management systems. His techniques of layered architecture include his namesake Bachman diagrams.

John Cocke was an American computer scientist recognized for his large contribution to computer architecture and optimizing compiler design. He is considered by many to be "the father of RISC architecture."

"No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accident in Software Engineering" is a widely discussed paper on software engineering written by Turing Award winner Fred Brooks in 1986. Brooks argues that "there is no single development, in either technology or management technique, which by itself promises even one order of magnitude [tenfold] improvement within a decade in productivity, in reliability, in simplicity." He also states that "we cannot expect ever to see two-fold gains every two years" in software development, as there is in hardware development.

John L. Hennessy American computer scientist

John Leroy Hennessy is an American computer scientist, academician, businessman, and Chair of Alphabet Inc. Hennessy is one of the founders of MIPS Computer Systems Inc. as well as Atheros and served as the tenth President of Stanford University. Hennessy announced that he would step down in the summer of 2016. He was succeeded as President by Marc Tessier-Lavigne. Marc Andreessen called him "the godfather of Silicon Valley."

IBM Research IBMs research and development division

IBM Research is IBM's research and development division. It is the largest industrial research organization in the world, with twelve labs on six continents.

Grady Booch American software engineer

Grady Booch is an American software engineer, best known for developing the Unified Modeling Language (UML) with Ivar Jacobson and James Rumbaugh. He is recognized internationally for his innovative work in software architecture, software engineering, and collaborative development environments.

David Patterson (computer scientist) American computer scientist

David Andrew Patterson is an American computer pioneer and academic who has held the position of Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley since 1976. He announced retirement in 2016 after serving nearly forty years, becoming a distinguished engineer at Google. He currently is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the RISC-V Foundation, and the Pardee Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus at UC Berkeley.

Bob Overton Evans, also known as "Boe" Evans, was a computer pioneer and corporate executive at IBM. He led the groundbreaking development of compatible computers that changed the industry.

Gerrit Blaauw Dutch computer scientist

Gerrit Anne (Gerry) Blaauw was a Dutch computer scientist, known as one of the principal designers of the IBM System/360 line of computers, together with Fred Brooks, Gene Amdahl, and others.

Maurice Peter Herlihy is a computer scientist active in the field of multiprocessor synchronization. Herlihy has contributed to areas including theoretical foundations of wait-free synchronization, linearizable data structures, applications of combinatorial topology to distributed computing, as well as hardware and software transactional memory. He is the An Wang Professor of Computer Science at Brown University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1994.

Frances E. Allen American computer scientist and pioneer in the field of optimizing compilers

Frances Elizabeth "Fran" Allen is an American computer scientist and pioneer in the field of optimizing compilers. Allen was the first female IBM Fellow and in 2006 became the first woman to win the Turing Award. Her achievements include seminal work in compilers, program optimization, and parallelization. Since 2002, she has been a Fellow Emerita from IBM.

Erich Bloch was a German-born American electrical engineer and administrator. He was involved with developing IBM's first transistorized supercomputer, 7030 Stretch, and mainframe computer, System/360. He served as director of the National Science Foundation from 1984 to 1990.

Elaine Jessica Weyuker is an ACM Fellow, an IEEE Fellow, and an AT&T Fellow at Bell Labs for research in software metrics and testing as well as elected to the National Academy of Engineering. She is the author of over 130 papers in journals and refereed conference proceedings.

Edward H. (Ed) Sussenguth Jr. was an American engineer and former IBM employee, known best for his work on IBM Systems Network Architecture. He was also a contributor to the architecture of IBM's Advanced Computer System (ACS) system.

Allan L. Scherr is an American computer scientist notable for his work in time-sharing operating systems and leading the original development of the IBM MVS operating system, used on IBM mainframe computers.


  1. 1 2 3 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. 1 2 Fred Brooks at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. 1 2 Frederick P. Brooks Jr. at DBLP Bibliography Server OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
  5. Shustek, Len (2015). "An interview with Fred Brooks". Communications of the ACM. 58 (11): 36–40. doi:10.1145/2822519. ISSN   0001-0782.
  6. Kenneth E. Iverson 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 2016-04-09.
  7. Kenneth E. Iverson (December 1991). "A Personal View of APL". IBM Systems Journal. 30 (4): 582–593. doi:10.1147/sj.304.0582 . Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  8. I. Bernard Cohen and Gregory W. Welch, eds. (1999). Makin' Numbers. MIT Press. ISBN   978-0-262-03263-6.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  9. Brooks, Frederick P. Jr. (1999). "What's Real About Virtual Reality" (PDF). Computer Graphics & Applications. 19 (6): 16–27. doi:10.1109/38.799723 . Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  10. "IBM Archives – Frederick P. Brooks Jr". IBM. 2003-01-23. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  11. Kelly, Kevin (July 28, 2010). "Master Planner: Fred Brooks Shows How to Design Anything". Wired. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  12. "The Mythical Man-Month, A Book Review" . Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  13. Iverson, Kenneth E.; Brooks, Frederick P. (1969). Automatic data processing: System/360 edition. New York: Wiley. ISBN   978-0-471-10605-0.
  14. Brooks, F. P., Jr. (1987). "No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering" (PDF). Computer. 20 (4): 10–19. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1109/MC.1987.1663532.
  15. Brooks, Frederick P.; Blaauw, Gerrit A. (1997). Computer architecture: concepts and evolution. Boston: Addison-Wesley. ISBN   978-0-201-10557-5.
  16. Brooks, Frederick P. (2010). The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN   978-0-201-36298-5.
  17. "Encounters with HCI Pioneers - A Personal Photo Journal". Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Pioneers Project. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  18. 1 2 Home Page, Frederick P. Brooks Jr.
  19. "F.P. Brooks". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  20. "Frederick P. Brooks – CHM Fellow Award Winner". 30 March 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  21. Faculty Biography at UNC.
  22. Brooks, Frederick P. (August 2006). "The Language, the Mind, and the Man". Vector. 22 (3). Retrieved 2018-03-16.