Peter Landin

I was just forwarded a message that Peter Landin passed away yesterday.

From: Edmund Robinson
Date: 4 June 2009 09:10:11 GMT+00:00
Subject: Peter Landin

I am very sorry to inform you that Peter Landin died yesterday of natural causes.

For those members who are several generations away from Peter's early contributions, he was one of the major figures in the UK at the time that Computer Science was beginning to establish itself as a discipline. Some of his papers from 40 years ago are essential reading for any serious student of programming languages as still the simplest and clearest exposition of ideas that remain fundamental. The ideas in his papers were truly original and beautiful, but Peter never had a simplistic approach to scientific progress, and would scoff at the idea of individual personal contribution. Some of his own greatest ontribution to the field was as part of a golden nexus of work on programming languages in the UK in the late 60's and early 70's, containing Dana Scott and Christopher Strachey and others as well as Peter. The ideas they developed through their discussions truly lifted the study of programming languages to another level, and are now part of the bedrock of the subject.

Landin was one of the founders of our field, and did a lot of work of lasting value. We've discussed his papers here many times before, even though some of them were written decades ago. He did work that cast a long shadow, or phrased better, did work that illuminated wide vistas.

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In the LtU archive.

In the LtU archive.

This is definitely sad news.

This is definitely sad news. I wanted to add some notes about how inspiring his work is, but everyone here should know that already.

May he rest in peace.

Next 700

The link I found on the LtU classic page about The Next 700 Programming Languages was dead; here's a working one.

His syntactic sugar for

His syntactic sugar for functions as values (lambdas) proposed in this paper is very helpful for me. Working in the area of computer music, I try to use simple notation and avoid something like lambda calculus notation that might scare away people in this interdisciplinary field. With his notation I have quasi "anonymous" functions in common math notation, and the notation does hardly require any explanation.


Edmund Robinson: Some of his own greatest [c]ontribution to the field was as part of a golden nexus of work on programming languages in the UK in the late 60's and early 70's, containing Dana Scott and Christopher Strachey and others as well as Peter.

Landin's name is as deserving of a place as Strachey's in what I call the Scott-Strachey school


Landin truly was one of the pioneers, or better, a steady quiet helmsman in the early days of programming language theory. His papers steered the discipline away from the rocky shore, and set the course to a wider and deeper appreciation of semantics over syntax. I hope all students, young and old, will continue to acknowledge his great influence on the subject; his presence and humor will be greatly missed.


I received the following announcement:

Everyone who knew Peter Landin is invited to an event to celebrate his life on Saturday June 20th from 4pm at

The Hampstead Quaker Meeting House
120 Heath Street

To be followed by an informal event at a nearby location yet to be arranged

People wishing to speak about Peter at this event are very welcome, please contact Dan Landin beforehand to arrange coordination - email:

If you would like to make a written contribution please send to David Bunnett email:

Guardian obituary

Question about Peter Landin

The obituary mentions that towards the end of his life he came to regard computing as a bad pursuit because it amplified differences in power and helped to create a surveillance state.

Did he write on this topic? If so, is any (perhaps ironically) available on-line?

Thanks. And, of course, my belated condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.


I second this request.

I second this request. (Based on some searches, my feeling is that these ideas were not published.)

Another sketch by Richard Bornat...

..though not much is visible to me from this side of Springer's paywall.

Peter Landin: a computer scientist who inspired a generation, 5th June 1930 - 3rd June 2009. In Formal Aspects of Computing, 21(5):393-395. With a preview page.