Michael Kölling

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Kölling, Michael
Born Bremen, Germany
Nationality Germany
Fields Computer science
Institutions King's College London, University of Kent, Sydney University
Doctoral advisor John Rosenberg
Known for BlueJ, Greenfoot
Notable awards
  • 2013 SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education

Michael Kölling is a German computer scientist, best known for the development of the BlueJ and Greenfoot educational development environments and as author of introductory programming textbooks. In 2013 he received the 2013 SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education for the development of the Blue programming language[1] and environment.


Kölling was born in Bremen, Germany. He earned a degree in "Informatik" from the University of Bremen (Universität Bremen). In 1999, he was awarded a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Sydney University, supervised by John Rosenberg.

From 1995 to 1997 he worked at the Sydney University, followed by a position as Senior Lecturer at Monash University and, from 2001, a post as Associate Professor at the University of Southern Denmark. He worked at the School of Computing at the University of Kent, UK, until february 2017. He is now a Professor of Computer Science at King's College London.[2]


Kölling is the lead designer of Blue, an object-oriented programming language and integrated environment, BlueJ, and Greenfoot. All are educational development environments aimed at teaching and learning of programming. BlueJ and Greenfoot are widely used in many schools and universities.

Kölling co-wrote Objects First with Java (5th edition), with David J. Barnes, and wrote "Introduction to Programming with Greenfoot" (2nd edition).

At the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group of Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) 2010 conference, held in Milwaukee, WI, his work was referenced as one of the most influential tools in the history of computer science education. This paper described Kölling's work on the Blue programming language, which preceded BlueJ.[3]

Microsoft patent issue[edit]

On 22 May 2005 Kölling made an entry to the BlueJ website[4] in response to a post on Dan Fernandez's blog (Lead Product Manager - Visual Studio Express). Fernandez described a new feature of Visual Studio 2005 that "helps you understand objects at Design Time, rather than runtime."[5] This feature had striking similarities to the way the object test bench functions within BlueJ.

Kölling did not act on the discovery. However, on May 11, 2006 Microsoft attempted to patent[6] the idea. As the object test bench is essential to the way it functions, had Microsoft's patent been granted, it was likely that BlueJ would have had to have been discontinued.

Kölling spoke to Microsoft, namely Jane Prey, and eventually the patent was dropped.[7]

Fernandez posted a response on his blog where he says "the patent application was a mistake and one that should not have happened. To fix this, Microsoft will be removing the patent application in question. Our sincere apologies to Michael Kölling and the BlueJ community."[8]


  • Kölling received a "Best Thesis Award" in 2000 from The Computing Research and Education Association of Australasia[9]
  • Kölling was awarded the first Victorian Pearcey Award for his development of BlueJ.[10]
  • Kölling took part in a debate titled "Resolved: Objects First has failed" at SIGCSE in 2005. He believes that "Objects First has not failed. We have failed to do it".[11]
  • Kölling received the 2013 SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education. The award was presented at the 44th SIGCSE Technical Symposium in Denver, Colorade, USA. He gave the a keynote address This much I know: thoughts on the past, present and future of educational programming tools Proceedings of the 44th SIGCSE Technical Symposium


  • Michael Kölling, Introduction to Programming with Greenfoot: Object-Oriented Programming in Java with Games and Simulations, Pearson Education, August 2009, ISBN 978-0-13-603753-8.
  • David J. Barnes & Michael Kölling, Objects First with Java: A Practical Introduction using BlueJ, Prentice Hall / Pearson Education, 2008, ISBN 0-13-606086-2.
  • Bennedsen, Jens; Caspersen, Michael E.; Kölling, Michael (Eds.), Reflections on the Teaching of Programming Series: Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 4821. Springer, 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-77933-9.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]