Professor Robin Milner

It is with sadness that I mention the death of Professor Robin Milner, the great British computer scientist, who passed away 11 days ago. In addition to his ground breaking work of LCF (Logic for Computable Functions) and CCS and many other seminal contributions, Robin was the acknowledged father of ML, from which F#, OCaml, SML and other languages derive.

While I was not Robin’s student, I did have the good fortune to be the student of Malcolm Newey, Robin’s good friend and early collaborator in the first versions of LCF and ML in Edinburgh during the 1970s, and of Professor Mike Gordon, who transformed LCF into the proof system called HOL. Through many, many such people, ML, LCF, CCS and the systems derived from them have had enormous influence on both theoretical computer science and real world systems. For example, the thematic role of types and parametric polymorphism (generics) in these systems, with its crucial role in programming, specification and proof, has been a driving and recurring theme in programming language design and research throughout the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 00s. In my own small neck-of-the-woods, .NET Generics and its manifestations in C# and Visual Basic derive very much from our experience with this line of research and practice, as do F# type inference and units of measure in F#. 

I know Malcolm, Mike and many others will feel Robin’s loss greatly, and my thoughts are with Robin’s family, colleagues, students and friends.


Comments (1)

  1. sam@lfcs says:

    I had the privilege of knowing Robin Milner while I was a student in Edinburgh. He was inspirational. May peace be with him.