Willem van der Poel

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Willem Louis van der Poel
Willem van der Poel.jpg
Willem van der Poel
Born (1926-12-02) 2 December 1926 (age 93)
Alma materDelft University of Technology, University of Amsterdam
Known forDesigning the ZEBRA computer
AwardsComputer Pioneer Award (1984)
Scientific career
InstitutionsDelft University of Technology

Willem Louis van der Poel (2 December 1926, The Hague) is a pioneering Dutch computer scientist, who is known for designing the ZEBRA computer.


In 1950 Van der Poel obtained an engineering degree in applied science at Delft University of Technology, and in 1956 obtained his PhD degree from the University of Amsterdam. The title of his PhD thesis was The Logical Principles of Some Simple Computers.

From 1950 until 1967 he worked for the Dutch PTT, and from 1962 till 1988 was (part time) professor at Delft University of Technology. One of his PhD students was Gerard J. Holzmann. He was also the first chairman of IFIP Working Group 2.1 on ALGOL, from 1962 to 1968.

Since 1971 he is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).[1] In 1960 he received, together with H. Mol, the Visser-Neerlandia prize for the construction of a Braille translator.


Van der Poel is primarily known as a Dutch computer pioneer, designer of Testudo, the PTERA, the ZERO, and the ZEBRA computer. He chaired the IFIP working group WG2.1, which designed Algol 68,[2] and contributed to Algol 68 and LISP for the ZEBRA. He is said to be the originator of the Zero One Infinity rule,[3] which suggests that software designs should not impose arbitrary limits on the number of instances of a particular entity: if more than a single instance of it is to be allowed, then the collection size should be without fixed limit.

Selected publications[edit]


  • The Logical Principles of Some Simple Computers. Thesis, Amsterdam (1956).
  • SERA 69, definierend rapport. W.L. van der Poel (Ed.), Stichting Nederlands Studiecentrum voor Informatica (1970).
  • Een leven met computers. Afscheidsrede, TU Delft, 26 october 1988. Delft University of Technology (1988).


  • "A Simple Electronic Digital Computer." Applied Sci. Research (1952), p. 367-400.
  • "Micro-programming and Trickology." In: Digitale Informations-wandler, E.W. Hoffmann. Vieweg, Braunschweig (1961), p. 269-311.
  • Van der Poel, W.L., C.E. Schaap and G. van der Mey. "New Arithmetical Operators in the Theory of Combinators." Proc. Kon. Ned. Akad. v. Wetenschappen, Sept (1980) p. 271-325.


  1. ^ "Willem van der Poel" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  2. ^ http://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/text/algol/algol_bulletin/A15/P4.HTM
  3. ^ http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WillemLouisVanDerPoel

External links[edit]