Fred Brooks
Fred Brooks in 2007
Frederick Phillips Brooks Jr.

(1931-04-19)April 19, 1931
DiedNovember 17, 2022(2022-11-17) (aged 91)
Alma mater
Known for
Nancy Lee Greenwood
(m. 1956)
Scientific career
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Duke University
Harvard University
ThesisThe Analytic Design of Automatic Data Processing Systems (1956)
Doctoral advisorHoward H. Aiken[2]
Doctoral studentsAndrew Glassner[2] Edit this at Wikidata

Frederick Phillips Brooks Jr. (April 19, 1931 – November 17, 2022) was an American computer architect, software engineer, and computer scientist, best known for managing the development of IBM's System/360 family of computers and the OS/360 software support package, then later writing candidly about those experiences in his seminal book The Mythical Man-Month.[3]

In 1976, Brooks was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for "contributions to computer system design and the development of academic programs in computer sciences".[4]

Brooks received many awards, including the National Medal of Technology in 1985 and the Turing Award in 1999.[5][6]


Born on April 19, 1931, in Durham, North Carolina,[7] he attended Duke University, graduating in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics, and he received a Ph.D. in applied mathematics (computer science) from Harvard University in 1956, supervised by Howard Aiken.[2]

Brooks served as the graduate teaching assistant for Ken Iverson at Harvard's graduate program in "automatic data processing", the first such program in the world.[8][9][10]

Career and research

Brooks joined IBM in 1956, working in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Yorktown, New York. He worked on the architecture of the IBM 7030 Stretch, a $10 million scientific supercomputer of which nine were sold, and the IBM 7950 Harvest computer for the National Security Agency. Subsequently, he became manager for the development of the IBM System/360 family of computers and the OS/360 software package. During this time he coined the term "computer architecture".[7]

In 1964, Brooks accepted an invitation to come to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and founded the university's computer science department. He chaired it for 20 years. As of 2013 he was still engaged in active research there, primarily in virtual environments[11] and scientific visualization.[12]

A few years after leaving IBM, he wrote The Mythical Man-Month. The seed for the book was planted by IBM's then-CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr., who asked in Brooks's exit interview why it was so much harder to manage software projects than hardware projects. In this book, Brooks made the now-famous statement: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later", which has since come to be known as Brooks's law.[13] In addition to The Mythical Man-Month, Brooks is also known for the paper "No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accident in Software Engineering".[14][15]

In 2004 in a talk at the Computer History Museum and also in a 2010 interview in Wired magazine, Brooks was asked "What do you consider your greatest technological achievement?" Brooks responded, "The most important single decision I ever made was to change the IBM 360 series from a 6-bit byte to an 8-bit byte, thereby enabling the use of lowercase letters. That change propagated everywhere."[16]

A "20th anniversary" edition of The Mythical Man-Month with four additional chapters was published in 1995.[17][18]

As well as The Mythical Man-Month,[3] Brooks has authored or co-authored many books and peer reviewed papers[5] including Automatic Data Processing,[19] "No Silver Bullet",[14] Computer Architecture,[20] and The Design of Design.[21]

His contributions to human–computer interaction are described in Ben Shneiderman's HCI pioneers website.[22]

Service and memberships

Brooks served on a number of US national boards and committees, including:[23]

Awards and honors

In chronological order:[23]

In January 2005, he gave the Turing Lecture on the subject of "Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design".[28][29]

Personal life

Brooks was an evangelical Christian who was active with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.[30]

Brooks married Nancy Lee Greenwood in 1956. They have three children.[7] He named his eldest son after Kenneth E. Iverson.[31]

Brooks died on November 17, 2022, at age 91. He had been in poor health following a stroke.[32][33][34][35]


  1. ^ Brooks, F. P. (1960). "The execute operations—a fourth mode of instruction sequencing". Communications of the ACM. 3 (3): 168–170. doi:10.1145/367149.367168. S2CID 37725430.
  2. ^ a b c Fred Brooks at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ a b c Brooks, Frederick P. (1975). The mythical man-month: essays on software engineering. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-201-00650-6.
  4. ^ "NAE Website – Dr. Frederick P. Brooks". National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Frederick P. Brooks Jr. at DBLP Bibliography Server Edit this at Wikidata
  6. ^ Shustek, Len (2015). "An interview with Fred Brooks". Communications of the ACM. 58 (11): 36–40. doi:10.1145/2822519. ISSN 0001-0782. S2CID 44303152.
  7. ^ a b c Booch, Grady (1999). "Frederick Brooks - A.M. Turing Award Laureate". Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  8. ^ Iverson, Kenneth E. (June 1954). Arvid W. Jacobson (ed.). "Graduate Instruction and Research". Proceedings of the First Conference on Training Personnel for the Computing Machine Field. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  9. ^ Iverson, Kenneth E. (December 1991). "A Personal View of APL". IBM Systems Journal. 30 (4): 582–593. doi:10.1147/sj.304.0582. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  10. ^ Cohen, I. Bernard; Welch, Gregory W., eds. (1999). Makin' Numbers. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-03263-6.
  11. ^ Brooks, Frederick P. Jr. (1999). "What's Real About Virtual Reality" (PDF). IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. 19 (6): 16–27. doi:10.1109/38.799723. S2CID 3235380. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 18, 2000. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  12. ^ "IBM Archives – Frederick P. Brooks Jr". IBM. January 23, 2003. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  13. ^ McConnell, Steve (1999). "From the Editor: Brooks' Law Repealed". 16 (November/December 1999). IEEE Computer Society: 6–8. doi:10.1109/MS.1999.10032. Archived from the original on November 20, 2022. Retrieved November 20, 2022 – via journal)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. ^ a b Brooks, F. P. Jr. (1987). "No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering" (PDF). Computer. 20 (4): 10–19. CiteSeerX doi:10.1109/MC.1987.1663532. S2CID 372277. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 4, 2012.
  15. ^ Grier, David Alan (February 2021). "There Is Still No Silver Bullet". Computer. 54 (2): 60–62. doi:10.1109/MC.2020.3042682. S2CID 231992114. Retrieved November 20, 2022. No article has been so central to the discussion as "No Silver Bullet" by Frederick P. Brooks. Yet, almost 35 years after he wrote this contribution to knowledge, Brooks's observation remains true.
  16. ^ Kelly, Kevin (July 28, 2010). "Master Planner: Fred Brooks Shows How to Design Anything". Wired. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  17. ^ "The Mythical Man-Month, A Book Review". Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  18. ^ Bartlett, Roscoe A. (2008). "Software Engineering Reading List". Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  19. ^ Iverson, Kenneth E.; Brooks, Frederick P. (1969). Automatic data processing: System/360 edition. New York: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-10605-0.
  20. ^ Brooks, Frederick P.; Blaauw, Gerrit A. (1997). Computer architecture: concepts and evolution. Boston: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-201-10557-5.
  21. ^ Brooks, Frederick P. (2010). The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 978-0-201-36298-5.
  22. ^ "Encounters with HCI Pioneers - A Personal Photo Journal". Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Pioneers Project. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  23. ^ a b "Frederick P. Brooks, Jr". UNC Computer Science. April 19, 2007. Archived from the original on August 28, 2021. Retrieved November 19, 2022.
  24. ^ "F.P. Brooks". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on July 21, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  25. ^ "Fred Brooks ACM awards".
  26. ^ Brooks, Frederick P. (1996). "The computer scientist as toolsmith II". Communications of the ACM. 39 (3). Association for Computing Machinery: 61–68. doi:10.1145/227234.227243. ISSN 0001-0782. S2CID 34572148. "The scientist builds in order to study; the engineer studies in order to build"
  27. ^ "Frederick P. Brooks – CHM Fellow Award Winner". March 30, 2015. Archived from the original on April 3, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  28. ^ "Turing Lecture – IET Conferences". Institution of Engineering and Technology. 2015. Archived from the original ( on September 6, 2015. Retrieved November 20, 2022. 2005 – Professor Fred Brooks Jr, FREng Dist. FBCS Founding Kenan Professor of Computer Science University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design
  29. ^ Brooks, Frederick P. (January 20, 2005). "7th Annual Turing Lecture: Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design" (video). Institution of Engineering and Technology. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  30. ^ Faculty Biography at UNC.
  31. ^ Brooks, Frederick P. (August 2006). "The Language, the Mind, and the Man". Vector. 22 (3). Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  32. ^ Lohr, Steve (November 23, 2022). "Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Computer Design Innovator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2022.
  33. ^ Grüner, Sebastian (November 18, 2022). "8-Bit-Byte-Erfinder Fred Brooks gestorben". (in German). Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  34. ^ "Remembering Department Founder Dr. Frederick P. Brooks, Jr". UNC Computer Science. November 18, 2022. Archived from the original on November 19, 2022. Retrieved November 19, 2022.
  35. ^ "Frederick P. Brooks Jr.'s Obituary (1931–2022)" ( The Herald Sun. November 20, 2022. Retrieved November 20, 2022.