Edsger W. Dijkstra

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Mathematisch Centrum
Eindhoven University of Technology

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (May 11, 1930 – August 6, 2002; Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɛtsxər ˈwibə ˈdɛɪkstra]  ( listen)) was a Dutch computer scientist. He received the 1972 Turing Award for fundamental contributions to developing programming languages, and was the Schlumberger Centennial Chair of Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin from 1984 until 2000.

Shortly before his death in 2002, he received the ACM PODC Influential Paper Award in distributed computing for his work on self-stabilization of program computation. This annual award was renamed the Dijkstra Prize the following year, in his honor.


Life and work

Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Dijkstra studied theoretical physics at Leiden University, but quickly realized he was more interested in computer science. Originally employed by the Mathematisch Centrum in Amsterdam, he held a professorship at the Eindhoven University of Technology, worked as a research fellow for Burroughs Corporation in the early 1970s, and later held the Schlumberger Centennial Chair in Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, in the United States. He retired in 2000.

Among his contributions to computer science are the shortest path-algorithm, also known as Dijkstra's algorithm; Reverse Polish Notation and related Shunting yard algorithm; the THE multiprogramming system, an important early example of structuring a system as a set of layers; Banker's algorithm; and the semaphore construct for coordinating multiple processors and programs. Another concept due to Dijkstra in the field of distributed computing is that of self-stabilization – an alternative way to ensure the reliability of the system. Dijkstra's algorithm is used in SPF, Shortest Path First, which is used in the routing protocols OSPF and IS-IS.

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