Dennis RitchieBackground

Ritchie was born in Bronxville, New York. His father was Alistair E. Ritchie, a longtime Bell Labs scientist and co-author of The Design of Switching Circuits on switching circuit theory. He moved with his family to Summit, New Jersey, as a child, where he graduated from Summit High School.
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, and in 1968, he received a PhD from Harvard under the supervision of Patrick C. Fischer, his doctoral dissertation being “Program Structure and Computational Complexity”.

C and Unix

Ritchie was best known as the creator of the C programming language, a key developer of the UNIX operating system, and co-author of The C Programming Language, and was the ‘R’ in K&R (a common reference to the book’s authors Kernighan and Ritchie). Ritchie worked together with Ken Thompson, the scientist credited with writing the original Unix; one of Ritchie’s most important contributions to Unix was its porting to different machines and platforms.
The C language is widely used today in application, operating system, and embedded system development, and its influence is seen in most modern programming languages. UNIX has also been influential, establishing concepts and principles that are now precepts of computing.
Ritchie was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1988 for “development of the ‘C’ programming language and for co-development of the UNIX operating system.”


Turing Award
In 1983, Ritchie and 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”.

IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal
In 1990, both Ritchie and Thompson received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), “for the origination of the UNIX operating system and the C programming language”.

Fellow of the Computer History Museum
In 1997, both Ritchie and Thompson were made Fellows of the Computer History Museum, “for co-creation of the UNIX operating system, and for development of the C programming language.”

National Medal of Technology
On April 21, 1999, Thompson and Ritchie jointly received the National Medal of Technology of 1998 from President Bill Clinton for co-inventing the UNIX operating system and the C programming language which, according to the citation for the medal, “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”.

Japan Prize
In 2011, Ritchie, along with Thompson, was awarded the Japan Prize for Information and Communications for his work in the development of Unix operating system.

Death and legacy

Ritchie was found dead on October 12, 2011, at the age of 70 at his home in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, where he lived alone. First news of his death came from his former colleague, Rob Pike. The cause and exact time of death have not been disclosed. He had been in frail health for several years following treatment for prostate cancer and heart disease. His death came a week after the death of Steve Jobs; although Ritchie’s death did not receive as much media coverage, computer historians such as Paul E. Ceruzzi said his influence was comparable.


Source: Wikipedia