Richard P. Gabriel

Leonard: "Is that the Richard Gabriel?"
Jon: "Yeah, although I'm not sure what he's known for."
Jerome: "Yes, I know that not everyone is a Dick Gabriel fan, but...."
Jeff: "Richard Gabriel and Guy Steele are beasts in the world of computer science, and they are creative and witty geeks."
"Ah, yes. Richard Gabriel. Once again straddling the line between crazy and crazy-awesome."

I have an extensive autobiography in "Patterns of Software," so I won't go into the details of my life much here. If you want to look at a curriculum vitae, I’ve put one here. Of more interest and not discussed many places is that very few years since 1967 have gone by when I wasn’t in a band. I started out playing keyboards—mostly Hammond organ (a model A100, which is the classic B3 but with a built-in amplifier) and Leslie speaker (the famous rotating speaker—I have a model 146, I believe)—but in the late 1970s I took up guitar. Since the early 1980s I’ve played co-lead in a band named "The Wizards" and lead in a band named "Not Dead Yet."

I have three guitars: a 1962 reissue Stratocaster, a mid-1970s Les Paul Custom (a black Beauty), and a Gibson 335. My amplifier is a Mesa Boogie Mark IV. Here is a photo of me playing at a gig with "Not Dead Yet."

In 1983, my then-band, The Wizards, played a gig at Jack Alpert's place on Stanford campus. The invitation included a letter purported to have been written by Hunter S. Thompson about an earlier Jack Alpert party my band played at. Despite what you might think about his politics, his morality, or his sanity, Hunter S. Thompson was a fine writer.

For people interested in inviting me to a conference, meeting, or event, here are my official photo and bio.

I've written 5 books; here is some information on them.

In April 1999 my father died; in June 2002 my mother joined him. In July I composed an essay on their lives to read at a memorial for them. If you'd like to read it, it is here.

In March 2005, I won the 2004 AAAI/ACM Allen Newell Award.

For innovations not only on fundamental issues in programming languages and software design but also on the interaction between computer science and other disciplines, notably architecture and poetry.

Full Citation

Richard Gabriel has had a wide influence on programming languages and software design, and has also nurtured interaction between computer science and other disciplines. He has stretched the imagination of computer scientists with ideas and innovations from other fields (notably architecture and poetry), shaping the growth and impact of object technology.

Dr. Gabriel contributed to the development of Lisp and other infrastructure used by the artificial intelligence community. His contributions to the definition of the Common Lisp Object System set the stage for many object-oriented language features that were ahead of their time. He helped to develop Smalltalk and other infrastructure used by the object-oriented programming community, and has been influential in the ACM OOPSLA conferences, for which he created the Onward! Track to look for the next big advance in object technology. His paper "Worse is Better," a meditation on programming language design, has been widely circulated and debated by programming language designers.

Dr. Gabriel worked with the Hillside Group to adapt architect Christopher Alexander's notion of patterns and pattern languages to the domain of software engineering. He promoted writers' workshops as a means of capturing this important form of design documentation and developing a pattern community that cares about clear communication. He taught others how to run such workshops, for both poetry and software. He worked with the Computer History Museum to preserve classic software, and harvested design patterns in the process. He promoted industry and open-source communities, including Sun's Jini project. He is leading the development of a prototype Master of Fine Arts program in Software at the University of Illinois.

A 1981 PhD graduate in Computer Science from Stanford University, Dr. Gabriel also earned a MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Warren Wilson College in 1998. He is now a Distinguished Engineer with Sun Microsystems, President of the Hillside Group, and a Principal Investigator at Sun Laboratories. He maintains a web site for his writings and philosophy on blending art and science at

On June 11, 2005 I read a statement at the ACM Awards ceremony. Several asked me to put it up on this site.

For more information about the award....

A single-ring wedding ceremony, not quite traditional.

On March 22, 2012, my first PhD adviser, David L. Waltz, passed away. More than any other mentor, Dave made me the scientist / philosopher I have been my whole career. On September 23, 2012, a technical symposium was held at Brandeis University honoring him. I prepared a chapbook of my memories of our two years in Champaign-Urbana trying to start an AI Lab in the image of the MIT AI Lab. The evening before at a speakers' dinner I presented copies to his wife and children: Bonnie, Vanessa, and Jeremy. Here is that memorial.