School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Edgar F. Codd
  • Edgar F. Codd
  • Born: August 23, 1923
  • Died: April 18, 2003
  • Field: Computer science; databases
  • Focus: Developed the relational model, a general theory of data management, that serves as the foundation of relational databases.
  • Country: Great Britain
  • Era: 1950 to 1969

Edgar (Ted) Codd was a British computer scientist who laid the theoretical foundation for relational databases. The relational model, a very influential general theory of data management, remains his most memorable achievement.

Codd was born in Portland, Dorset, England. He studied mathematics and chemistry at Oxford University and served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War II. In 1948 he moved to New York to work for IBM as a mathematical programmer. In 1953, angered by Senator Joseph McCarthy, Codd moved to Ottawa. He returned to the United States after 10 years and received his doctorate in computer science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

He moved to San Jose, California to work at IBM's research center. There he worked out his theories of data arrangement, publishing his paper "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks" in 1970. IBM was slow to accept his suggestions until commercial rivals started implementing them. For example, Larry Ellison built the Oracle database based on Codd's ideas.

One of the forms in database normalization, the Boyce-Codd Normal Form, is named after Codd. Codd also coined the term OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) and wrote the 12 laws of online analytical processing.

He received the A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 1981 for his fundamental and continuing contributions to the theory and practice of database management systems.

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