Computer science leader Jim Horning dies at 70

Horning left imprint at DEC, Xerox PARC, other significant technology organizations

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James Horning

James "Jim" Horning, described by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as "a leading figure in the evolution of computer science as a discipline and a profession, " has died at the age of 70 in Palo Alto.

Horning, who described himself as having been "hooked on computing since 1959" (when he wrote his first program), was a founding member and chair of the University of Toronto's Computer Systems Research Group, a Research Fellow at Xerox PARC and a founding member and senior consultant with Digital Equipment Corp.'s Systems Research Center. He also held high-level IT security jobs at companies such as McAfee and Silicon Graphics. Most recently, he was a consultant with Advanced Elemental Technologies.

[PASSINGS: Notable deaths from 2012 in technology, science, inventions]

Horning was heavily involved with co-chairing its Awards Committee from 2002 to 2012. I only spoke to Horning once, and he was helpful in me putting together an article on whether there should be a Nobel Prize in Computing (he told me "I would certainly like to see [a Nobel Prize in Computing]. I'd love to have something that the public recognizes. We think the quality of our award [ACM's Turing Award] is comparable, but the word 'Nobel' adds its own cachet.")

An ACM Fellow, Horning shared his thoughts with the world as well via several blogs, including one dubbed "Nothing is as simple as we hope it will be." 

The computer scientist's areas of interest included programming languages and compilers, grammatical inference, operating systems, computer and network security, and e-commerce technologies.

Horning earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1969, a Master's in Physics at UCLA in 1965, and a BA (with honors) in Physics and Mathematics at Pacific Union College in 1963.

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