Log In

Alan J. Perlis Edit Profile

Mathematician , scientist , university professor , Computer scientist

Alan Jay Perlis was an American computer scientist known for his pioneering work in programming languages and the first recipient of the Turing Award.


Perlis, Alan J. was born on April 1, 1922 in Pittsburgh. Son of Louis Phillip and Zelda Anne (Gilfond) Perlis.


Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1943. Postgraduate, California Institute of Technology, 1947. Master of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1950.

Doctor of Philosophy in Math, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1950. Doctor of Science (honorary), Davis and Elkins College, 1968. Doctor of Science (honorary), Purdue University, 1973.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Waterloo University, 1974. Doctor of Science (honorary), Sacred Heart University, 1979.


In 1943, he received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army, where he became interested in mathematics. His doctoral dissertation was titled "On Integral Equations, Their Solution by Iteration and Analytic Continuation".

In 1952, he participated in Project Whirlwind. He joined the faculty at Purdue University and then moved to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1956. He was chair of mathematics and then the first head of the Computer Science Department.

He was elected president of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1962. He was awarded the Turing Award in 1966, according to the citation, for his influence in the area of advanced programming techniques and compiler construction. In 1971, Perlis moved to Yale University to become the chair of Computer Science and hold the Eugene Higgins chair.

Perlis was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977. In 1982, he wrote an article, Epigrams on Programming, for ACM's SIGPLAN journal, describing in one-sentence distillations many of the things he had learned about programming over his career. The epigrams have been widely quoted.

He remained at Yale until his death in 1990.


Served to 1st lieutenant United States Army Air Force, 1942-1945, European Theatre of Operations. Member National Academy Engineering, Association Computing Machinery (president 1962-1964, editor-in-chief journal. Communications 1958-1962, A.M. Turning prize 1966), Society Industrial and Applied Mathematics, American Mathematics Society, Mathematics Association, American Academy Arts. and Sciences, Connecticut Academy of Sciences Engineering.


Married Sydelle Gordon, October 28, 1951. Children– Mark Lawrence, Robert Gordon, Andrea Lynn.

Louis Phillip Perlis

Zelda Anne (Gilfond) Perlis

Sydelle Gordon

Mark Lawrence Perlis

Robert Gordon Perlis

Andrea Lynn Perlis