Robert Dewar

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Robert Dewar
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Robert Dewar
Robert Berriedale Keith Dewar

(1945-06-21)June 21, 1945
DiedJune 30, 2015(2015-06-30) (aged 70)
Known forPresident and CEO of AdaCore
Scientific career
Institutions AdaCore
New York University
Doctoral students Anita Borg [1]

Robert Berriedale Keith Dewar (June 21, 1945 – June 30, 2015) was an English-born American computer scientist and educator. He helped to develop software languages and compilers and was an outspoken advocate of freely licensed open source software. He was a founder, CEO and president of AdaCore software company. He was also an enthusiastic amateur performer and musician, especially with the Village Light Opera Group in New York City.


Early life and education

Dewar was born in Oxford, England, one of two sons of the theoretical chemist Michael J. S. Dewar and Mary Dewar, née Williamson, a historian and scholar of English Tudor history. [2] [3] In 1959 he moved with his parents from England to Chicago, Illinois, when his father accepted a teaching job at the University of Chicago. [4] Dewar obtained his B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1964, and his Ph.D. in chemistry, also from the University of Chicago, in 1968. [5] He began to work with computers during graduate school. [6]


Dewar was first Assistant Professor of Information Science and later Associate Professor of Computer Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) from 1968 to 1975, before becoming Research Associate Professor of Computer Science at New York University (NYU) in 1975, where he was Full Professor of Computer Science from 1976 to 2005, and becoming chair of the department. [5] [6] [7]

He was Chairman of IFIP Working Group 2.1 from 1978 to 1983 and Associate Director of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences from 1994 to 1997. Until his death, he was President of AdaCore, which he co-founded in 1994, also serving as its CEO until 2012. [5] [8] Dewar was an outspoken advocate of freely licensed open source software and an expert in copyright and patent law for software. He was in demand as a speaker at conferences and expert witness in legal actions. [5] [6]

Software contributions

While at the IIT, Dewar created the original SPITBOL compiler together with Ken Belcher in 1971, and Macro SPITBOL with Tony McCann in 1974. [9] These implementations of SNOBOL4, which quickly gained widespread popularity, are still being used today [10] In the 1970s he was a principal author of the Realia COBOL compiler, [6] also still widely used in commercial environments today (marketed by Computer Associates).[ citation needed ]

Dewar became involved with the Ada programming language from its early days as a Distinguished Reviewer of the Ada 1983 design proposed by Jean Ichbiah that was selected by the US DoD. [5] He was co-director (with Edmond Schonberg) of the team at NYU that produced Ada/Ed, an interpreter for Ada 83 written in SETL [11] [12] and the first Ada implementation to pass the strenuous ACVC validation suite, [13] mandated for being allowed to use the trademarked name Ada. [14]

Dewar and Schonberg went on to produce GNAT, a free-software compiler for Ada that forms part of the GNU Compiler Collection. [5] Dewar also participated in the SETL project at NYU, and co-authored the handbook Programming With Sets: An Introduction to SETL. He influenced the design of the ABC programming language, in particular its SETL-style high-level data types, such as associative arrays. Guido van Rossum, the author of the programming language Python, wrote that the use of the colon in Python is due to Dewar's wife. [15] He was also involved in the design of Algol 68. [5]

Personal life

He was married to Karin Dewar, née Anderson (died 2013), and had two children, Jenny (born 1965) and Keith (born 1969), and two grandchildren. [5] Dewar was known as an engaging and witty conversationalist. [6]

Dewar played the bassoon, recorder and other musical instruments and enjoyed singing. He was an enthusiastic and valued member and benefactor of the Village Light Opera Group (VLOG) for 35 years, serving them in many capacities, from producer and president to music director, and on stage from Harem Guard to the title role in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado . [5] [6] [16] VLOG's Dewar Center for the Performing Arts was named in recognition of Robert and Karin Dewar's contributions. [17] He was also a member of the North American Heckelphone Society [6] and performed with other groups until only months before his death. [4]

He died of cancer at age 70 at his home in Bennington, Vermont. [4] [18]


See also

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