Robert Dewar

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Robert Dewar
Robert Dewar.jpg
Robert Dewar
Robert Berriedale Keith Dewar

(1945-06-21)21 June 1945
Died30 June 2015(2015-06-30) (aged 70)
EducationUniversity of Chicago (B.S., 1964; Ph.D., 1968)
Known forIFIP WG 2.1 member, chairperson
AdaCore cofounder, president, CEO
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
InstitutionsIllinois Institute of Technology
New York University
Thesis (1968)
Doctoral studentsAnita Borg[1]

Robert Berriedale Keith Dewar (21 June 1945 – 30 June 2015) was an English-born American computer scientist and educator. He helped to develop programming languages and compilers and was an outspoken advocate of freely licensed open-source software. He was a cofounder, CEO, and president of AdaCore software company. He was also an enthusiastic amateur performer and musician, especially with the Village Light Opera Group in New York City.

Early life and education[edit]

Dewar was born in Oxford, England, one of two sons of the theoretical chemist Michael J. S. Dewar and Mary Dewar, née Williamson, a historian and scholar of English Tudor history.[2][3] In 1959, he moved with his parents from England to Chicago, Illinois, when his father accepted a teaching job at the University of Chicago.[4] Dewar attended the University of Chicago, earning a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in 1964, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in chemistry in 1968.[5] He began to work with computers during graduate school.[6]


Dewar was first Assistant Professor of Information Science and later Associate Professor of Computer Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) from 1968 to 1975, before becoming Research Associate Professor of Computer Science at New York University (NYU) in 1975, where he was Full Professor of Computer Science from 1976 to 2005, and becoming chair of the department.[5][6][7]

He was involved with developing international standards in programming and informatics, as a member of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) IFIP Working Group 2.1 (WG 2.1) on Algorithmic Languages and Calculi,[8] which specified, maintains, and supports the languages ALGOL 60 and ALGOL 68.[9] He was involved in the design of ALGOL 68,[5] and was WG 2.1 chairperson from 1978 to 1983.

He was Associate Director of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences from 1994 to 1997. Until his death, he was President of AdaCore, which he cofounded in 1994, and served as its CEO until 2012.[5][10][11] Dewar was an outspoken advocate of freely licensed open-source software and an expert in copyright and patent law for software. He was in demand as a speaker at conferences and expert witness in legal actions.[5][6]

Software contributions[edit]

While at the IIT, Dewar created the original SPITBOL compiler, with Ken Belcher in 1971, and Macro SPITBOL, with Tony McCann in 1974.[12] These implementations of SNOBOL4, which quickly gained widespread popularity, are still being used today.[13] In the 1970s, he was a principal author of the Realia COBOL compiler,[6] today marketed by Computer Associates, and still widely used in commercial environments.[citation needed]

Dewar became involved with the language Ada from its early days as a Distinguished Reviewer of the Ada 1983 design proposed by Jean Ichbiah that was selected by the United States Department of Defense (US DoD).[5] He was codirector, with Edmond Schonberg, of the team at NYU that produced Ada/Ed, an interpreter for Ada 83 written in SETL[14][15] and the first Ada implementation to pass the strenuous ACVC validation suite,[16] mandated for being allowed to use the trademarked name Ada.[17]

Dewar and Schonberg went on to produce GNAT, a free software compiler for Ada that forms part of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC).[5] Dewar also participated in the SETL project at NYU, and co-authored the handbook Programming With Sets: An Introduction to SETL. He influenced the design of the language ABC, in particular its SETL-style high-level data types, such as associative arrays. Guido van Rossum, the author of the language Python, wrote that the use of the colon in Python is due to Dewar's wife.[18]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Karin Dewar, née Anderson (died 2013), and had two children, Jenny (born 1965) and Keith (born 1969), and two grandchildren.[5] Dewar was known as an engaging and witty conversationalist.[6]

Dewar played the bassoon, recorder, and other musical instruments and enjoyed singing. He was an enthusiastic and valued member and benefactor of the Village Light Opera Group (VLOG) for 35 years, serving them in many capacities, from producer and president to music director, and on stage from Harem Guard to the title role in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado.[5][6][19] VLOG's Dewar Center for the Performing Arts was named in recognition of Robert and Karin Dewar's contributions.[20] He was also a member of the North American Heckelphone Society[6] and performed with other groups until only months before his death.[4]

He died of cancer at age 70 at his home in Bennington, Vermont.[4][21]


  • Dewar, Robert B. K. (June 1975). "Indirect Threaded Code". Communications of the ACM. 18 (6): 330–331. doi:10.1145/360825.360849. S2CID 26395264.
  • Dewar, Robert B. K.; McCann, Anthony P. (1977). "Macro SPITBOL: a SNOBOL4 Compiler". Software: Practice and Experience. 7: 95–113. doi:10.1002/spe.4380070106. S2CID 29014301.
  • Dewar, Robert B. K.; Golumbic, Martin Charles; Goss, Clinton F. (August 2013) [First published October 1979]. Macro SPITBOL. Computer Science Department Technical Report. 11. Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. arXiv:1308.6096. Bibcode:2013arXiv1308.6096D.
  • Dewar, Robert B. K.; McCann, Anthony P. (1979). MINIMAL: A Machine Independent Assembly Language. Computer Science Department Technical Report. 12. Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
  • Golumbic, Martin Charles; Dewar, Robert B. K.; Goss, Clinton F. (1980). "Macro Substitutions in Macro SPITBOL – a Combinatorial Analysis". Proceedings of the 11th Southeastern Conference on Combinatorics, Graph Theory and Computing, Congressus Numerantium, Utilitas Math. Winnipeg, Canada. 29: 485–495.
  • Schwartz, J. T.; Dewar, R. B. K.; Dubinsky, E.; Schonberg, E. (1986). Programming with Sets: An Introduction to SETL. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-96399-5.
  • Dewar, Robert B. K.; Smosna, Matthew (1990). Microprocessors: A Programmer's View. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-016638-7.
  • Dewar, Robert B. K. (2007). "The compiler as a static analysis tool". SIGAda 2007: 83–88.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Borg, Anita (1981). Synchronizaiton Efficiency (PhD thesis). New York University. OCLC 15102657. ProQuest 303020475.
  2. ^ Burkhart, Ford (2 November 1997). "Dr. Michael J. S. Dewar, 79; Research Led to Drug Advances". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Michl, Josef; Fox, Marye Anne (1999). "Michael J. S. Dewar" (PDF). Biographical Memoirs. 77. National Academy Press. pp. 65–77. ISBN 0-309-59373-5.
  4. ^ a b c Kravetz, Daniel (September 2015). "Robert Dewar 1945–2015". The Palace Peeper. Vol. LXXX no. 1. The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of New York. p. 3.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ayre, Jamie (2 July 2015). "AdaCore President Robert B. K. Dewar (1945-2015)". Business Wire (Press release). Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Robert B.K. Dewar: Obituary". The New York Times. 22–24 July 2015.
  7. ^ "IIT Computer Science Pioneer Robert B.K. Dewar Passes Away". Illinois Tech. Illinois Institute of Technology. 7 July 2015.
  8. ^ Jeuring, Johan; Meertens, Lambert; Guttmann, Walter (17 August 2016). "Profile of IFIP Working Group 2.1". Foswiki. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  9. ^ Swierstra, Doaitse; Gibbons, Jeremy; Meertens, Lambert (2 March 2011). "ScopeEtc: IFIP21: Foswiki". Foswiki. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Executive Team". AdaCore. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  11. ^ "Interview with Robert Dewar, AdaCore President and Cyrille Comar, AdaCore Managing Director" (PDF). GNAT Pro insider. AdaCore. Autumn Winter 2014–2015. p. 3. Retrieved 26 October 2020. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Emmer, Mark B.; Quillen, Edward K. (2000) [1989]. Macro SPITBOL (PDF). Catspaw. p. 159. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  13. ^ Wexelblat, Richard L., ed. (2014). History of Programming Languages. Academic Press. pp. 623–628. ISBN 978-1483266169.
  14. ^ Dewar, Robert B. K.; Fisher Jr., Gerald A.; Schonberg, Edmond; Froelich, Robert; Bryant, Stephen F.; Goss, Clinton; Burke, Michael (November 1980). "The NYU Ada Translator and Interpreter". ACM SIGPLAN Notices – Proceedings of the ACM-SIGPLAN Symposium on the Ada Programming Language. 15 (11): 194–201. doi:10.1145/948632.948659. ISBN 0-89791-030-3. S2CID 10586359.
  15. ^ "Ada/Ed, an interpreter for Ada 83". Ada Home. 10 February 1998. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  16. ^ "Ada Compiler Validation Summary Report: NYU Ada/Ed, Version 19.7 V-001". Waltham, MA: SofTech, Inc. 11 April 1983. Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Ada Trademark Replaced by Certification Mark". Ada Information Clearinghouse. 1987. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  18. ^ van Rossum, Guido (8 July 2011). "Karin Dewar, Indentation and the Colon". The History of Python. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  19. ^ "The Mikado opens" (Press release). Village Light Opera Group. 2008.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ The Dewar Center Handbook (PDF). Village Light Opera Group. 2008. p. 2.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Sad news of Prof. Robert Dewar". New York University. June 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  22. ^ "If you use DOS, you need this program". PC Magazine (advertisement). Vol. 2 no. 9. Ziff-Davis Publishing. January 1983. p. 417. Archived from the original on 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Expert Report of Robert B. K. Dewar In Response To The Report Of Kenneth D. Crews". Cambridge University Press et al v. Patton et al, Filing 124, Supplemental Initial Disclosures by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Inc., Sage Publications, Inc. – Cambridge University Press, Oxfort University Press, Inc., and Sage Publications, Inc. v. Mark P. Becker, Georgia State University President, et al, Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-1425-ODE (Court document). United States District Court For The Northern District Of Georgia, Atlanta Division. p. 18. Exhibit A. Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2019. […] SPACEMAKER and TERMULATOR, commodity software for IBM PC (PC DOS file compression utility and VT-100 emulator), being marketed by Realia, Inc. R.B.K. Dewar (1982-1983), 8088 assembly language, 8,000 lines […]
  24. ^ Dewar, Robert Berriedale Keith (13 March 1984). "DOS 3.1 ASMB (Another Silly Microsoft Bug)". info-ibmpc@USC-ISIB.ARPA. Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2019. […] I did write the Realia SpaceMaker program which does a similar sort of thing to […] EXEPACK […]
  25. ^ Necasek, Michal (30 April 2018). "Realia SpaceMaker". OS/2 Museum. Archived from the original on 27 January 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  26. ^ Parsons, Jeff (10 January 2019). "An Update on Early Norton Utilities". PCjs. Archived from the original on 29 January 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  27. ^ Necasek, Michal (12 January 2019). "Yep, Norton Did It". OS/2 Museum. Archived from the original on 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.

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