Donald B. Gillies

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Donald B. Gillies
Donald Bruce Gillies

(1928-10-15)October 15, 1928
DiedJuly 17, 1975(1975-07-17) (aged 46)
Urbana, Illinois, USA
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Princeton University
Scientific career
FieldsMathematics, Computer Science
InstitutionsUniversity of Illinois,
Stanford University (sabbatical),
National Research Development Corporation (UK)
Doctoral advisorJohn von Neumann
Alice (Betsy) E. D. Gillies and Donald B. Gillies with the ILLIAC I at the Digital Computer Lab, Urbana Illinois, circa 1957

Donald Bruce Gillies (October 15, 1928 – July 17, 1975) was a Canadian computer scientist and mathematician who worked in the fields of computer design, game theory, and minicomputer programming environments.

Early life and education[edit]

Donald B. Gillies was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to John Zachariah Gillies (a Canadian) and Anne Isabelle Douglas MacQueen (an American). He attended the University of Toronto Schools, a laboratory school originally affiliated with the university. Gillies attended the University of Toronto from 1946 to 1950, majoring in mathematics.[citation needed]

He began his graduate education at the University of Illinois and helped with the checkout of ORDVAC computer in the summer of 1951. After one year he transferred to Princeton to work for John von Neumann and developed the first theorems of core (game theory) in his PhD thesis.[1]

Gillies ranked among the top ten participants in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition held in 1950.[2]


Gillies moved to England for two years to work for the National Research Development Corporation. He returned to the US in 1956, married Alice E. Dunkle,[3] and began a job as a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Math Department at UIUC celebrated the new primes with a postal meter cancellation stamp[4] — until Appel and Haken proved the Four-color theorem in 1976.

Starting in 1957, Gillies designed the three-stage pipeline control of the ILLIAC II supercomputer at the University of Illinois.[5] The pipelined stages were named "advanced control", "delayed control", and "interplay". This work competed with the IBM 7030 Stretch computer and was in the public domain. Gillies presented a talk on ILLIAC II at the University of Michigan Engineering Summer Conference in 1962.[6] During checkout of ILLIAC II, Gillies found three new Mersenne primes,[7] one of which was the largest prime number known at the time.[8]

In 1969, Gillies launched a project to build the first Pascal compiler written in North America, a fast-turnaround, in-memory, 2-pass compiler. The compiler, for the PDP-11/23 minicomputer, was completed before 1975.[9][10]

In 1974, Gillies became the first source code[11] licensee for the Bell Labs UNIX operating system.[12]

Death and legacy[edit]

Gillies died unexpectedly at age 46 on July 17, 1975, of a rare viral myocarditis.[citation needed]

In 1975, the Donald B. Gillies Memorial lecture was established at the University of Illinois, with one leading researcher from computer science appearing every year. The first lecturer was Alan Perlis.[13]

In 2006, the Donald B. Gillies Chair Professorship was established in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois. Vikram Adve was invested as the second chair professor of the endowment in 2018.[14] The Department of Computer Science awarded a Memorial Achievement Award to Gillies in 2011.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gillies, Donald (1953). Some theorems in N-person games. Princeton University (Thesis). OCLC 19736643.
  2. ^ Bush, L. E. (1950). "The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition". The American Mathematical Monthly. 57 (7): 467–470. doi:10.2307/2308299. ISSN 0002-9890. JSTOR 2308299.
  3. ^ Engagement Announcement (New York Times), Alice E. Dunkle is Betrothed to Donald Gillies, a Mathematician, December 10, 1955.
  4. ^ "History Timeline".
  5. ^ Gillies, Donald B. (October 1957). On the design of a very high speed computer (Report).
  6. ^ Gillies, Donald B. (June 1962). On the design of a very high speed computer.
  7. ^ Gillies, Donald B. (Jan 1964). "Three new Mersenne primes and a statistical theory". Mathematics of Computation. 18 (5): 93–97. doi:10.2307/2003409. JSTOR 2003409.
  8. ^ "History Timeline". Retrieved 2020-11-18.
  9. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  10. ^ "Roy H Campbell". Archived from the original on 2020-08-05.
  11. ^ "History Timeline".
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-22. Retrieved 2017-04-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "vikram adve invested donald b gillies professor computer science". 2018-04-15.
  15. ^ Memorial Achievement Award Archived 2015-03-18 at

External links[edit]