Stephen R. Bourne

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Stephen Richard Bourne

Steve Bourne speaking at SDWest 2005
Born (1944-01-07) 7 January 1944 (age 80)
Other namesSteve
EducationKing's College London (BSc)
Trinity College, Cambridge (Diploma in Computer Science, Ph.D.)
Known forALGOL 68C
Advanced Debugger
Bourne shell
The Unix System
ACM Queue
AwardsPresidential Award, ACM, 2008
Fellow, ACM, 2005
Fellow, Royal Astronomical Society
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
InstitutionsBell Labs
Silicon Graphics
Digital Equipment Corporation
Sun Microsystems
Cisco Systems
Association for Computing Machinery
Icon Venture Partners

Stephen Richard "Steve" Bourne (born 7 January 1944) is an English computer scientist based in the United States for most of his career. He is well known as the author of the Bourne shell (sh), which is the foundation for the standard command-line interfaces to Unix.[1]


Bourne has a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in mathematics from King's College London, England. He has a Diploma in Computer Science and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in mathematics from Trinity College, Cambridge. Subsequently, he worked on an ALGOL 68 compiler at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory (see ALGOL 68C). He also worked on CAMAL, a system for algebraic manipulation used for lunar theory calculations.[2]

After the University of Cambridge, Bourne spent nine years at Bell Labs with the Seventh Edition Unix team.[3] Besides the Bourne shell, he wrote the adb debugger and The Unix System, the second book on the topic, intended for general readers.

After Bell Labs, Bourne worked in senior engineering management positions at Silicon Graphics, Digital Equipment Corporation, Sun Microsystems, and Cisco Systems.

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 on Algorithmic Languages and Calculi,[4] which specified, maintains, and supports the programming languages ALGOL 60 and ALGOL 68.[5]

From 2000 to 2002 he was president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).[6] For his work on computing, Bourne was awarded the ACM's Presidential Award in 2008 and was made a Fellow of the organization in 2005.[7] He is also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Bourne was chief technology officer at Icon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California through 2014.[8] He is also chairperson of the editorial advisory board for ACM Queue, a magazine he helped found when he was president of the ACM.[9]


  1. ^ Dahdah, Howard (5 March 2009). "The A–Z of Programming Languages: Bourne shell, or sh – An in-depth interview with Steve Bourne, creator of the Bourne shell, or sh". Computerworld.
  2. ^ Bourne, Stephen Richard (1969). Automatic algebraic manipulation and its application to the lunar theory. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Bourne, Stephen R. (30 November 2015). Early days of Unix and design of sh (video).
  4. ^ Jeuring, Johan; Meertens, Lambert; Guttmann, Walter (17 August 2016). "Profile of IFIP Working Group 2.1". Foswiki. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  5. ^ Swierstra, Doaitse; Gibbons, Jeremy; Meertens, Lambert (2 March 2011). "ScopeEtc: IFIP21: Foswiki". Foswiki. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  6. ^ "ACM Past Presidents". Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Stephen Bourne". Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Steve Bourne". Icon Venture Partners. Archived from the original on 11 December 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  9. ^ Stanik, John (24 October 2008). "A Conversation with Steve Bourne, Eric Allman, and Bryan Cantrill". ACM Queue. 6 (5).

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