School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Frederick P. Brooks
  • Frederick P. Brooks
  • Born: April 19, 1931
  • Field: Software engineering; computer science; operating systems
  • Focus: Renowned for having led development of the IBM OS/360 operating system and then documenting the flawed process in his insightful and brilliant work "The Mythical Man-Month."
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1970 to 1989

Fred Brooks is best known for having managed development of the OS/360 operating system for the IBM System/360 mainframe computer and then documenting the experience in his frank and seminal work "The Mythical Man-Month." The impact of this and other writings by Brooks on software engineering and the computing industry has been enormous.

Brooks received his undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1953 and then went on to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University in applied mathematics (computer science) in 1956. (Interestingly, Howard Aiken was his Ph.D. advisor.) After graduating from Harvard, he joined IBM, where he would work for 10 years. While there, his most notable achievement was to lead development of OS/360.

Brooks left IBM in 1965 to found the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which he chaired for 20 years. While there, he penned "The Mythical Man-Month," a collection of essays widely acknowledged as a classic of software engineering and project management. The book recounts the development of IBM OS/360, a monumental overrun of corporate budget and scheduling, in an open and candid fashion. The book is famous for Brook's Law, which states that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." It is perhaps best-known for distilling this premise into the wry observation, "birth takes nine months, no matter how many women you put on the project."

For his significant contributions to computer architecture, operating systems, and software engineering, Brooks received the A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 1999. He also received the National Medal of Technology from President Reagan in 1985 and is the recipient of numerous other prestigious awards and honors. He is a fellow of the ACM and the IEEE, among many other institutions, and he has published dozens of influential books and papers. He is currently still active in research at the University of North Carolina.

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