Robin Milner

Robin Milner was born in 1934, and graduated from King's College, Cambridge, in 1958. He worked variously as a programmer and as a lecturer in mathematics before turning to computer science, first at University College, Swansea (1968-71), then at Stanford University (1971-73), and finally at the University of Edinburgh, where he is currently a professor and Director of the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science.

Robin Milner's research is on the mathematical theory of computation. His early work on rigorous methods for reasoning about programs resulted in LCF (a Logic for Computable Functions, 1972), a system with which one can interactively prove programs correct. LCF still lives on in proof systems and research projects at Edinburgh, Cambridge, Cornell, Göteborg and Paris.

Many programming errors can be caught if every expression is given a type: the computer can detect attempts to combine types incorrectly. As the command language for LCF, Milner and his colleagues developed a functional programming language called ML. For it, Robin Milner invented a flexible and rigorous type discipline, which can moreover often infer types automatically. This type discipline has set a standard for other languages and strongly influenced research. ML has since been further developed, and is now taught at several universities including Göteborg. It got the British Computer Society award för technical innovation in 1987.

Concurrent programs represent a major challenge in computer sience: techniques used for sequential programs are inadequate for them. Milner began to study these in 1972. His monograph "A calculus of Communicating Systems" (CCS) 1980 is a seminal work. Many researchers around the world, and here at Göteborg, are working on CCS or calculi sinpired by it, and it will remain one of the main models of concurrency for years to come. Its tractable notation and proof techniques have evoked interest in industry; it is the basis of LOTOS, likely to become an ISO standard language for describing computer communications.

He is also noted for work on denotational models and the concept of full abstraction. Through CCS, he has refocused attention on the operational semantics of programming languages.

Robin Milner has worked to bring theory into Computer Science teaching, and to promote its interaction with practice. The Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science, which he and his colleagues established, aims both to do research and to transfer theories and systems to industry, thus gaining feed-back.

Robin Milner's work has been less widely known than it should be, but since it is fundamental, broad and undogmatic, it will be of lasting importance.

Publicerad: to 14 okt 2010.