John C. Reynolds, 1935-2013

Randy Bryant, dean of the school of computer science at CMU, sent out an email saying that John C. Reynolds passed away yesterday.

Subject: In Memoriam. John Reynolds, June 1, 1935 - April 28, 2013
Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2013 21:45:12 -0400
From: Randy Bryant

I'm sorry to announce that John Reynolds, a long-time member of our computer science faculty, passed away early this morning. Many of you know that John had been in declining health recently. We were able to celebrate his retirement him last summer. He had a heart attack last week and went downhill over a period of several days.

John got his PhD in 1961 in theoretical physics, but while working at Argonne National Laboratory came to realize that his passion was for computation. He became a very successful computer scientists, focusing on the logical foundations of programs and programming languages. He was at Syracuse University from 1970 to 1986 and then joined the CSD faculty.

John has made many important contributions over his career. Interestingly, his 2002 work on separation logic, done jointly with Peter O'Hearn and others, has been especially prominent. Separation logic provides a formal way to reason about what we might think of as "normal programs," i.e., ones that operate by changing the values stored in memory, but where memory is partitioned into independent blocks, and so we can reason about different program components independently. I can only hope that the work I do at age 67 would be counted among my best!

We will also remember John for this cheerful spirit, his high ethical standards, and his deep intellect. He will very much be missed.

Randy Bryant

It's probably impossible to overstate the impact that John had on the field of programming languages. But beyond being a great scholar, he was also a generous mentor and a fundamentally decent and kind human being. He will indeed very much be missed.

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I've also posted some

I've also posted some personal remembrances of John on my blog.

Student stories

There is a recollection of student stories published in 2007 under the name "On being a student of John Reynolds" (that happens to be hard to reach on the open web). Neelk's own recollections on his blog are even more interesting than most of those, maybe because the format is less constrained, and focuses more on the activity of doing science.

On Being a Student of John Reynolds

Olivier Danvy (one of the editors of the Reynolds Festschrift) has kindly put up a preprint of On Being a Student of John Reynolds online.

The ideas and contributions

The ideas and contributions of Reynolds were discussed here in the past. Those interested in knowing more about his work should search the archives. I recommend the article on the discovery of continuations. There also the festschrift.

I met him in London

when he was receiving the Lovelace medal in 2010 from the BCS. For some reason (probably due to his long history of important contributions) I was under the mistaken impression that there was a John Reynolds as well as a John C. Reynolds. I have no idea how I came to that conclusion originally but a couple weeks before his lecture I realized that what I had thought was the work of two people was actually the work of one, which indirectly says something about his contributions to computer science.

Rest in Peace

His book Theories of Programming Languages made a great impact upon me and further kindled my interest in PL Theory and Design.

It's a shame he didn't get a Turing Award.