Another Great Innovator – Dennis Ritchie loses Long Standing Battle to Illness

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Another Great Innovator - Dennis Ritchie loses Long Standing Battle to Illness
This has turned out to be quite an emotional week in the world of technology.   Dennis Ritchie, one of the masterminds behind the creation of C programming language and co-creator of Unix, lost a long standing battle to illness this week, dying at the age of 70.  Just following the death of Steve Jobs earlier this week, the two great innovators have definitely left a legacy that will forever define their generation.  In a statement from Jeong Kim, President, Bell Labs:

Dennis was well loved by his colleagues at Bell Labs, and will be greatly missed. He was truly an inspiration to all of us, not just for his many accomplishments, but because of who he was as a friend, an inventor, and a humble and gracious man.

This summer we were fortunate to celebrate with him as he accepted the 2011 Japan Prize for co-inventing the UNIX® operating system and the C programming language at a ceremony in Murray Hill, NJ, which was viewed by Bell Labs colleagues around the world.  For many it was the first time they got to meet him and hear from him. I know I speak for all of Bell Labs when I say that he made us so proud of him that day.

As one of the most respected researchers from Bell Labs, Dennis has a long list of accomplishments In addition to his work on UNIX and the C language, Dennis also contributed to the Plan 9 operating system, generally released in 1995, and also to the Inferno operating system, which was announced in April 1996. His last contribution to the UNIX system was a Stream input-output mechanism for connecting networks, terminals, and processes in a unified way.

Dennis joined the Bell Labs Computer Systems Research department in 1967, and though he retired in 2007 from the Computer Science Research Center, he continued to maintain close ties as a consultant for Bell Labs.

He has received numerous prestigious awards and honors for his work, including the ACM award for the outstanding paper of 1974 in systems and languages; IEEE Piore, Hamming and Pioneer medals, Bell Laboratories Fellow; Association for Computing Machinery Turing Award (1983); ACM Software Systems Award (1983); C&C Foundation award of NEC (1989); the US Medal of Technology (1999); the U Penn Harold Pender Award (2003); and the Japan Prize (2011).  All of these were shared with Ken Thompson, co-inventor of UNIX and the C programming language and long-time friend of Dennis.

Dennis also was elected to the U. S. National Academy of Engineering in 1988.

On behalf of Bell Labs, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the Ritchie family, and to all who have been touched in some way by Dennis.

Thank you to two amazing legendaries.  Your legacies epitomize exceptionalism, leaving new ways of thinking to inspire our culture.