Lee E. McMahon

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Lee Edward McMahon
Bell telephone magazine (1922) (14756062432).jpg
McMahon at Bell Labs in 1966
Born(1931-10-24)October 24, 1931
DiedFebruary 15, 1989(1989-02-15) (aged 57)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materHarvard University
Known forsed, McMahon system tournament
Spouse(s)Helen G McMahon
ChildrenMichael McMahon, Catherine McMahon
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
InstitutionsBell Labs[1]
ThesisGrammatical analysis as a part of understanding a sentence (1963)

Lee Edward McMahon (October 24, 1931[2]–February 15, 1989[3]) was an American computer scientist.

Family and education[edit]

McMahon was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to father Leo E. McMahon and mother Catherine McCarthy. He grew up in St. Louis and attended St. Louis University High School.[4] In 1955 he received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from St. Louis University.[5] McMahon was awarded a regular graduate fellowship from the St. Louis University for study in psychology at Harvard University, where he then obtained a Ph.D. in psychology.[6][7] His Ph.D. thesis at Harvard University was published in 1963 with the title "Grammatical analysis as a part of understanding a sentence".

He was married to Helen G McMahon, and they had two children, Michael and Catherine.[1]

Bell Labs[edit]

McMahon worked for Bell Labs from 1963 up until his death in 1989. He worked initially as a Linguistics Researcher and focussed around a language called FASE (Fundamentally Analyzable Simplified English) with the goal of improving communication between humans and computers.[8]

McMahon officially joined the Bell Labs Computing Research Center in 1975.[1]

A project which attempted to clarify the authorship of The Federalist Papers connected him to Robert Morris and began his involvement with early Unix development.[9]

McMahon is best known for his contributions to early versions of the Unix operating system, in particular the sed stream editor.[10] McMahon contributed to the development of comm, qsort, grep, index, cref, cu, and Datakit.[11]

McMahon's system tournament[edit]

McMahon worked on the creation of a pairing system to go together with Bob Ryder of Bell Labs in the early 1960s.[12]

The system was widely used in go tournaments - for example in the U.S. Championship tournaments of 1986.[13]


  1. ^ a b c "Lee E. Mc Mahon". Madison Eagle. 23 February 1989. Retrieved 20 March 2021 – via github.com.
  2. ^ "NARA AAD Display Partial Records". archives.gov. Archived from the original on 20 March 2021. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  3. ^ "NARA AAD Display Partial Records". archives.gov. Archived from the original on 20 March 2021. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  4. ^ "SLUH Alumni In Memoriam". sluh.org. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  5. ^ "1650 Will Receive St. Louis U. Degrees at Kiel Auditorium Exercises Tuesday". St. Louis Globe-Democrat. 5 June 1955. Retrieved 20 March 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "FELLOWSHIPS GIVEN TO 12 AT ST.LOUIS U." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 20 March 1960. Retrieved 20 March 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Doctoral Alumni". harvard.edu. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  8. ^ "English for Computers". Bell Telephone Magazine Summer 1966. 1966. Retrieved 20 March 2021 – via archive.org.
  9. ^ "Unix: An Oral History". princeton.edu. Archived from the original on 20 March 2021. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  10. ^ In the Beginning: Unix at Bell Labs, retrieved 2008-11-21
  11. ^ McIlroy, M. D. (1987). A Research Unix reader: annotated excerpts from the Programmer's Manual, 1971–1986 (PDF) (Technical report). CSTR. Bell Labs. 139.
  12. ^ "McMahon Pairing". senseis.xmp.net. Archived from the original on 30 November 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  13. ^ Terry Benson and R.A. McCallister (1986). "RANKA Yearbook 1986" (PDF). Go in the United States and the American Go Association. Retrieved 20 March 2021.