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Personal Background


Eugene OBITUARY Eugene Edward McDonnell October 18th 1926—August 17th 2010 Eugene McDonnell, a computer science pioneer and long-time contributor to the APL programming language died peacefully at home in Palo Alto on August 17th. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on October 18th, 1926, one of four children born to Eugene Francis McDonnell and Helen Julia Powers. He is survived by his wife Jeanne, to whom he was devoted for 54 years, their five children and five grandchildren. He was a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School and enlisted in the army at age 17 where he served as an infantry corporal. He attended the University of Kentucky on the GI bill, and had a scholarship to Harvard where he studied comparative literature. He and Jeanne were married on May 12th, 1956, when he worked for Western Union. He then started at IBM in 1960 where he helped design the company’s first time-sharing system, and where he received a patent for an “Information Transfer Control System” which allowed communication between two users: a basis for instant messaging. Eugene joined I.P. Sharp Associates in 1978, where he worked until retirement in1990. Eugene was passionate about books and poetry, had committed to memory poems from ancient to contemporary works and he was a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. He enjoyed crossword puzzles and games like bridge and cribbage. Other interests in his life were history, travel, mathematics, baseball, bird-watching and nature walks with his wife. MEMORIAL CELEBRATION There will be a memorial for Eugene on Sunday, August 29 at the family home at 1509 Portola Ave., Palo Alto, California. It is an open gathering and all who knew him are invited to attend. We encourage his friends and family to share their stories. Open house will start at 2:00. We will pay tribute to him at 3:00, those who wish to speak are welcome to do so at that time. Afterwards the open house will continue from 4:00 to 6:00pm. DONATIONS Donations can be made at the Computer History Museum (http://www.computerhistory.org) or UC Davis Mind Institute - Autism Research (http://www.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute) WIKIPEDIA

Eugene Edward McDonnell (October 18, 1926 - August 17, 2010) was a Computer Science pioneer and long-time contributor to the programming languagesAPL and J.

He was a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School. After serving as an infantrycorporal in the U.S. Army in World War II, he attended the University of Kentucky, graduating in 1949 summa cum laude, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was awarded a First Year Graduate Fellowship to Harvard University, where he studied comparative literature, particularly Dante’sDivine Comedy.

Studying the poems of Robert Frost, he noticed that the first two poems in Frost's book West Running Brook, "Spring Pools" and "The Freedom of the Moon", not only discuss reflecting, but the rhyme schemes of the two reflect each other: aabcbc and cbcbaa. When he met Frost, he was delighted to find that they had both committed the 193 lines of John Milton's "Lycidas" to memory.

His first work at IBM was in the design of IBM’s first Time-Sharing system, which became a very early host to IVSYS, a predecessor of APL. In 1968 he became a colleague of Ken Iverson, used Iverson notation before APL was named, and was active in the very earliest days of APL. He holds U.S. Patent 3,400,376 (3 September 1968) "Information Transfer Control System" allowing communication between two users. In 1978 he left IBM and joined I. P. Sharp Associates. He retired from I.P. Sharp in 1990.

At IBM, McDonnell devised the notation for the signum and circle functions in APL, designed the complexfloor function, and proposed the extension of or and and to GCD and LCM. With Iverson he was responsible for the inclusion of hooks and forks in J. The result of zero divided by zero in J is as he proposed in 1976. He won the Iverson Award in 1987.

McDonnell was the publisher of the APL Press, producing "A Source Book in APL" and "APL Quote Quad, the Early Years". He was the editor and principal contributor of the Recreational APL column in APL Quote-Quad for many years. He wrote dozens of the "At Play with J" columns in Vector, the journal of the British APL Association. He contributed to Sloane'sOn-line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.

He had Erdős number 2:

  • Paul Erdős and Jeffrey Shallit, New bounds on the length of finite Pierce and Engel series, Séminaire de Théorie des Nombres de Bordeaux 3, 1991, pp. 43–53.
  • Eugene McDonnell and Jeffrey Shallit, Extending APL to Infinity, Proc. APL 80 International Conf., North-Holland, 1980, pp. 123–132.

He was a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), and gave a talk "Classical Persuasion" at the JASNA meeting at Lake Louise in 1993. He was active in the Bay area Jane Austen group, and wrote a topical index to the Dierdre Le Faye edition of Jane Austen's letters, which can be seen at the Pemberly site, http://www.pemberley.com/.

McDonnell died peacefully at his home in Palo Alto in 2010.





Latest Tributes

XjJCkMKFec - You have the monopoly on useufl information-aren't monopolies illegal? ;) - from Elfrida

IKQSsaSIEGxvaKizcy - YMMD with that awnser! TX - from Gabby

For Eugene's Family - I am very sorry for your loss. Eugene sounded like a wonderful husband and father. My heart goes out to you. The Bible can be a great source of comfort during times like this. The resurrection is a sure hope found in the Bible. There are several accounts found in it where people who had died were brought back to life as humans on earth. The most well known being that of Jesus' friend Lazarus. This will happen again but on a much bigger scale. At John 5:28,29 Jesus said "The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out." Jehovah's original purpose was for us to live forever on a paradise earth. That has not changed. At Revelation 21:3,4 Jehovah God promises to wipe out every tear from out eyes. There will be no mourning, no outcry, no pain, and no death. Isn't it comforting to know that seeing Eugene right here on this earth can be a reality? It should also be comforting to know that the pain you feel from loosing him can be undone. The promises found in the Bible that Jehovah has made are sure to come true because in the book of Titus chapter 1 it states "God cannot lie." I know this wound is still very fresh. Hopefully this brings you some comfort. Please feel free to contact me. My email address is Futurehope4u09@yahoo.com. - from Amanda

condolences for Jeanne - Dear Jeanne, I only met your husband at one or two social gatherings, so didn't have the privilege of really knowing him, but the heartfelt tributes here speak well of him. My husband of 38 years died last May, so I can empathize with your loss. I used not to think that sympathy cards and letters were significant, but I've learned the contrary, and just wanted you to know that someone is thinking of you. - from Meredith Phillips

The McDonnell family in a phrase - After seeing all of the extended McDonnell family on Sunday I could only think of one phrase "What an incredible Gene pool" - pun intended:) - from John van Gelder

Latest Memories

Luciano - My Tinkerbell is like that too! She can remember ptrety much everything--especially conversations. If she asks you something that she asked you over a year ago, though, she expects you to give her the exact same answer!

Cayle - YouÂ’re a real deep tihnker. Thanks for sharing.

David Hanna - When the Negro Leagues baseball traveling exhibit brought me to San Francisco, I knew it was an opportunity to reconnect with family, but it was much more. With Uncle Oogie, in that brief time spent together, I saw a truly happy man, full of life and energy that a man half his age could only hope for. He shared stories of growing up a Brooklyn Dodger fan watching Jackie Robinson break the color barrier which was always important to me because I was a Dodger fan from a young age and I often thought about what it was like to go to Ebbets Field. I will never forget the glimmer in his eyes as he talked about those days.

John van Gelder - As a Palo Alto High School student, Gene ( or did we call him Mr. Mc Donnell? I forget) was a great mentor to all of Jim's friends including Peter, Abdul, Andrew and myself. He aloud us to test out his book on APL in their work environment and was instrumental it launching my and Abdul's career. He was the 1st software professional I ever met. My Dad was a hardware guy, so now I write software to design, test, and manufacture Intel's latest processors. Gene and Jean opened their house to way too many late nights of Theatrical Bridge for many years. They also lent Jim the family car by 16 so we could go all over the Bay Area from Los Gatos to San Francisco at ungodly hours of the night. I guess they thought we would be safe in their car or in their house. I think they were right. Good times and good memories. Thanks to the entire McDonnell family.

Jeannie Farr Starkey - Uncle "Oogie" as we called him taught me about the degrees of separation. When I was a little girl he told me that because I shook his hand, I was only three handshakes away from President John F. Kennedy and of course explained how in great detail. I remember being fascinated by that. He always shared some interesting and fun facts. The last time I saw him and Aunt Jeanne was here in Ohio last summer. He told us what each one of his children were doing at the time, again in detail, and at the end he said words I wish could remember exactly but to the effect, lots of children happy life, and I remember thinking to myself, that is a happy man...I have thought about that many times since