Wes Graham

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James Wesley Graham
Graham talking with IBM representative Chester Warchol while someone sets up computer.
Graham (right) supervising set up of IBM computer at the University of Waterloo in 1964.
Born(1932-01-17)January 17, 1932
DiedAugust 20, 1999(1999-08-20) (aged 67)
Other namesWes Graham
OccupationProfessor of Computer Science
Known forled teams that developed influential software projects[clarification needed]

Wes Graham was a Canadian professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, with strong ties to industry.[1][2][3]


Graham was born on January 17, 1932 in Copper Cliff, Ontario. His interest in computing developed while studying math and physics at the University of Toronto.[4] After working at IBM as a systems engineer, Graham accepted a position at the University of Waterloo in 1959 becoming one of the first professors of Computer Science.[5][3] In 1962, Graham was named the director of Waterloo's Computing Centre when it was established as a separate entity from Department of Mathematics.

In 1965, when James G. Mitchell, then an undergraduate student at Waterloo, wrote an academic paper on how to write a teaching compiler for Fortran, that could compile, link, and execute a typical undergraduate's program in a single pass, Graham arranged for Mitchell and a small team, under his supervision, to write that compiler. The compiler was eventually known as WATFOR, and was eventually to be used by students at 420 Colleges and Universities around the world.[6] WATFOR was followed by similar teaching compilers, like WATBOL, for teaching COBOL, and WATIAC for teaching the principles of assembly language programming.

Graham is credited with convincing leading computer manufacturers that it was in their interests to donate equipment to the University, because Waterloo students would then write valuable software for those computers that would make the manufacturers` products more valuable.[5] A total of $35 million CAD in donated equipment is credited to Graham.

Graham, some of his colleagues, and students and former students of theirs, formed the University spin-off software company Watcom, which was sold to Powersoft in 1994, for $100 million CAD.[1][7] Powersoft was then acquired by Sybase[8] in 1994 which was subsequently acquired by SAP SE[9] in 2010.

Graham was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, in July 1999, but died of cancer before the formal award ceremony in September 1999.[10][5] The J.W. Graham Medal for excellence in Computer Science was named in his honor.[5]


  1. ^ a b Clyde H. Farnsworth (1994-04-13). "BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY; The Canadian Triangle Where High Tech Reigns". Waterloo, Ontario: New York Times. p. D1. Archived from the original on 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2012-12-17. As head of the university's Computer Systems Group, Professor Graham founded the Watcom International Corporation to produce software hedeveloped that makes it easier to learn computer programming. The software has been used by more than one million students worldwide.
  2. ^ Shane Schick (2007-04-09). "U of Waterloo alumni look back on creator of Fortran variant: Wes Graham was critical to the development of popular WATFOR". IT Business. Archived from the original on 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2012-12-17. This year the University of Waterloo will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of its computer science department. A key figure from those early days was J. Wesley Graham, a professor who led a team of students to create the Waterloo Fortran IV compiler, also known as WATFOR. Initially developed for the IBM 7040 computer in the summer of 1965, WATFOR later ran on the IBM 360/370, DEC PDP-11 and VAX machines, received rave reviews internationally and led to a spin-off company, WATCOM. Graham died in 1999.
  3. ^ a b "J. Wesley Graham fonds". University of Waterloo Library. 2000. Retrieved 2012-12-17. bookplate for the J. Wesley Graham fondsJames Wesley Graham was a Canadian computing pioneer who was known as the "father of computing" at the University of Waterloo and who was "chiefly responsible for the university's international reputation in software development." (Donn Downey, The Globe and Mail).
  4. ^ Reinhart, Tony (26 August 1999). "Wes Graham, 67, led his university into computing age". Toronto Star. p. D7.
  5. ^ a b c d "James Wesley Graham, O.C." Computer Systems Group. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  6. ^ Harold Alkema, Kenneth McLaughlin (2007). "Unbundling Computing at The University of Waterloo". University of Waterloo. Archived from the original on 2012-12-18. Retrieved 2012-12-18. The Department of Computing Services (DCS) newsletter noted that there were 420 institutions using WATFIV, 230 using WATBOL, and 370 using DCS's SCRIPT, all software products constructed by UW.
  7. ^ Willis, Andrew (17 July 1995). "Learning curve" (Subscription database). Maclean's magazine. 108 (29). Several staff members have inspiring success stories, among them computer science professor Wesley Graham. In 1994, Graham and a partner sold Watcom International Corp., a computer education company they founded in 1981, to Concord, Mass.-based Powersoft Corp. for more than $100 million.
  8. ^ Rifkin, Glenn. "Sybase To Acquire Powersoft". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  9. ^ Worthen, Ben; Scheck, Justin. "SAP Strikes Deal for Sybase". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Director vows not to go south; New officer of Order of Canada grateful for chances here". Kitchener-Waterloo Record. 1999-09-24. p. A.05. Retrieved 2012-12-17. Absent from the Rideau Hall ceremony was J. Wesley Graham, the University of Waterloo computing professor who was named officer of the order in July, but died Aug. 20. He was 67. Graham, who told a reporter in July that "It's a great reward to get at the end of my career" had been battling cancer. Ontario Lt.-Gov. Hilary Weston invested Graham into the order three days before his death at his Waterloo home.