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Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie (right) with Ken Thompson
Born September 9, 1941 (1941-09-09) (age 68)
Bronxville, New York
Fields Computer Science
Institutions Lucent Technologies
Bell Labs
Known for ALTRAN
Notable awards Turing Award
National Medal of Technology

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie (username: dmr, born September 9, 1941) is an American computer scientist notable for his influence on C and other programming languages, and on operating systems such as Multics and Unix. He received the Turing Award in 1983 and the National Medal of Technology in 1998. Ritchie was the head of Lucent Technologies System Software Research Department when he retired in 2007.



Born in Bronxville, New York, Ritchie graduated from Harvard University with degrees in physics and applied mathematics. In 1967, he began working at the Bell Labs Computing Sciences Research Center.

C and Unix

Ritchie is best known as the creator of the C programming language and a key developer of the Unix operating system, and as co-author of the definitive book on C, The C Programming Language, commonly referred to as K&R (in reference to the authors Kernighan and Ritchie).

Ritchie's invention of C and his role in the development of Unix alongside Ken Thompson have placed him as an important pioneer of modern computing. The C language is still widely used today in application and operating system development, and its influence is seen in most modern programming languages. Unix has also been influential, establishing concepts and principles that are now well-established precepts of computing.

Ritchie has said that creating the C language "looked like a good thing to do" and that anyone else in the same place at the same time would have done the same thing, though Bell Labs colleague Bjarne Stroustrup, developer of C++, said that "if Dennis had decided to spend that decade on esoteric math, Unix would have been stillborn."

Following the success of Unix, Ritchie continued research into operating systems and programming languages with contributions to the Plan 9 and Inferno operating systems and the Limbo programming language.


Thompson (left) and Ritchie (center) receiving the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton.

Turing Award

In 1983, Ritchie and Ken Thompson jointly received the Turing Award for their development of generic operating systems theory and specifically for the implementation of the UNIX operating system. Ritchie's Turing Award lecture was titled "Reflections on Software Research"[1].

National Medal of Technology

On April 21, 1999, Thompson and Ritchie jointly received the 1998 National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton for co-inventing the UNIX operating system and the C programming language which together have led to enormous advances in computer hardware, software, and networking systems and stimulated growth of an entire industry, thereby enhancing American leadership in the Information Age.[2][3]


Dennis Ritchie is often referred to as "dmr" (his Bell Labs email address) in technical discussion groups.



Ritchie enjoying conversation in a chalet in the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City at the 1984 Usenix conference.
  • "I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party."[4]
  • "Usenet is a strange place."[5]
  • "UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity."[6]


External links

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