Joe Armstrong (programmer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joe Armstrong
Armstrong in 2009
Born(1950-12-27)27 December 1950
Bournemouth, England, UK
Died20 April 2019(2019-04-20) (aged 68)
Alma materUniversity College London, UK; Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden
Occupation(s)Computer programmer, professor, author
Known forCreating the Erlang programming language
SpouseHelen Taylor
ChildrenThomas Armstrong, Claire Armstrong
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Edinburgh
Ericsson Computer Science Lab

Joseph Leslie Armstrong (27 December 1950 – 20 April 2019) was a computer scientist working in the area of fault-tolerant distributed systems. He is best known as one of the co-designers of the Erlang programming language.

Early life and education[edit]

Armstrong was born in Bournemouth, England in 1950.[1][2]

At 17, Armstrong began programming in Fortran on his local council's mainframe.[1]

Armstrong graduated with a B.Sc. in Physics from University College London in 1972.[2]

He received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden in 2003.[2][3] His dissertation was titled Making reliable distributed systems in the presence of software errors.[4] He was a professor at KTH from 2014 until his death.[2]


After briefly working for Donald Michie at the University of Edinburgh, Armstrong moved to Sweden in 1974 and joined the Ericsson Computer Science Lab at Kista in 1984.[2]

Peter Seibel wrote:

Originally a physicist, he switched to computer science when he ran out of money in the middle of his physics PhD and landed a job as a researcher working for Donald Michie—one of the founders of the field of artificial intelligence in Britain. At Michie's lab, Armstrong was exposed to the full range of AI goodies, becoming a founding member of the British Robotics Association and writing papers about robotic vision. When funding for AI dried up as a result of the famous Lighthill report, it was back to physics-related programming for more than half a decade, first at the EISCAT scientific association and later the Swedish Space Corporation, before finally joining the Ericsson Computer Science Lab, where he invented Erlang.[5]

It was at Ericsson in 1986, that he worked with Robert Virding and Mike Williams, to invent the Erlang programming language,[2] which was released as open source in 1998.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Armstrong married Helen Taylor in 1977. They had two children, Thomas and Claire.[2]


Armstrong died on 20 April 2019 from an infection which was complicated by pulmonary fibrosis.[7][8][9][10]


  • 2007. Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World. Pragmatic Bookshelf ISBN 978-1934356005.
  • 2013. Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World. Second edition. Pragmatic Bookshelf ISBN 978-1937785536.


  1. ^ a b Armstrong, Joe (29 April 2013). "Excerpts from Coders At Work: Joe Armstrong Interview". Living in an Ivory Basement (Interview). Interviewed by Seibel, Peter. Brown, C. Titus. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Däcker, Bjarne (8 May 2019). "Joe Armstrong obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  3. ^ "Joe Armstrong: Father of Erlang". Erlang User Conference. Erlang Solutions Ltd. 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  4. ^ Armstrong, Joe (December 2003). Making reliable distributed systems in the presence of software errors (PDF) (PhD). Stockholm: Royal Institute of Technology. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 December 2004.
  5. ^ Seibel, Peter (2009). "Joe Armstrong". Coders at work. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Erlang/OTP Released as Open Source, 1998-12-08". Archived from the original on 9 October 1999.
  7. ^ "Francesco Cesarini on Twitter". Twitter. 20 April 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  8. ^ Wager, Kristjan (20 April 2019). "RIP Joe Armstong, the author of Erlang". Free Thought Blogs. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  9. ^ 作者: (21 April 2019). "Erlang之父Joe Armstrong去世". 新浪科技_新浪网 (in Chinese). Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Helen Taylor on Twitter". Twitter. 21 April 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2019.

External links[edit]