Fred Brooks

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Fred Brooks
Fred Brooks.jpg
2007 photo
Born Frederick Phillips Brooks Jr.
(1931-04-19) April 19, 1931 (age 87)
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
Children Kenneth, 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]


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]

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]

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.

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]

A few years after leaving IBM he wrote The Mythical Man-Month being triggered to do so by Thomas Watson Jr. who asked him in his exit-interview why it is 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.

In 2004 in a talk at the Computer History Museum and also in 2010 in a interview by Kevin Kelly for an article[11] 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."

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 Schneiderman's HCI pioneers website.[17]

Service and memberships

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

  • 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:[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]


  1. ^ a b c Brooks, Frederick P. (1975). The mythical man-month: essays on software engineering. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. ISBN 0-201-00650-2.
  2. ^ Brooks, F. P. (1960). "The execute operations---a fourth mode of instruction sequencing". Communications of the ACM. 3 (3): 168. doi:10.1145/367149.367168.
  3. ^ a b Fred Brooks at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ a b Frederick P. Brooks Jr. at DBLP Bibliography Server
  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. Wayne State University. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  7. ^ Kenneth E. Iverson (December 1991). "A Personal View of APL". IBM Systems Journal. 30 (4). 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 0-262-03263-5.
  9. ^ Brooks, Frederick P. Jr. (1999). "What's Real About Virtual Reality" (PDF). Computer Graphics & Applications. IEEE. 19 (6): 16–27. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  10. ^ "IBM Archives – Frederick P. Brooks Jr". IBM. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  11. ^ Kelly, Kevin (July 28, 2010). "Master Planner: Fred Brooks Shows How to Design Anything". Wired. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  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 0-471-10605-4.
  14. ^ Brooks, F. P. , J. (1987). "No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering" (PDF). Computer. 20 (4): 10. doi:10.1109/MC.1987.1663532.
  15. ^ Brooks, Frederick P.; Blaauw, Gerrit A. (1997). Computer architecture: concepts and evolution. Boston: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-10557-8.
  16. ^ Brooks, Frederick P. (2010). The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 0-201-36298-8.
  17. ^ "Encounters with HCI Pioneers - A Personal Photo Journal". Encounters with HCI Pioneers - A Personal Photo Journal. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  18. ^ a b 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.

External links

  • Media related to Fred Brooks at Wikimedia Commons
  • Quotations related to Fred Brooks at Wikiquote
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