FME Fellowship Awarded to Prof. Dines Bjørner

Prof. Dines Bjørner, professor emeritus of computer science at the Technical University of Denmark (DK), has been awarded the FME Fellowship 2021. The Fellowships are awarded every three years in recognition of technical breakthroughs and pioneering work in advancing, applying, and promoting mathematically rigorous methods for the design of computing systems.

Prof. Dines Bjørner receives the FME 2021 Fellowship.

The call for nominations was issued in October 2020, and on 15 December 2020 this process was concluded. In a ceremony at the 24th International Symposium on Formal Methods (FM 2021), Prof. Bjørner was announced as being the forth Fellow of Formal Methods Europe. After Prof. Ana Cavalcanti, the Chair of FME, introduced the new FME Fellow and explained the selection process, Prof. Dines Bjørner shared his insights in a talk with the title “The 2021 FME Fellowship Acceptance Speech” about his work and scientific achievements. At the end of the ceremony, Prof. Bjørner was presented with a certificate and medal.

The FME Awards Committee motivated its decision as follows:

For all his academic achievements, and his leadership and impact on the formal methods community, we present Prof. Dines Bjørner, the 2021 FME Fellow. Prof. Bjørner is a co-founder of VDM-Europe, the precursor of FME. He played a central role in the creation and organisation of FM 99, the 1st World Congress in Formal Methods, which was the first event in our area with more than 500 participants. He has been a tireless teacher travelling the world to promote formal methods. He has taught thousands of students.

Prof. Bjørner has also distinguished himself as Founding Director of United Nations University UNU-IIST in Macau, which helped promote the careers of many (young) researchers and spread knowledge of formal methods around the world. UNU-IIST has had a strong impact on fellows from developing countries, teaching them formal methods. Many went on to apply these in industry, academia, and government in their own countries.

He co-founded an industrial research & development centre, the Dansk Datamatik Center (DDC), and its commercial spin-out DDC International (DDC-I). The research centre was an impressive achievement in that Prof. Bjørner succeeded in persuading 10 companies to provide the financial basis for hiring around 40 people doing nothing but research. In collaboration with former students, Prof. Bjørner has had a strong impact on industry, giving rise to the founding of several new formal-methods oriented companies besides DDC International. We can name PDC, PPU Software, Maconomy, and IFAD.

His remarkable scientific achievements have already been widely recognised, including accolades such as Fellowships of IEEE and ACM, Memberships of the Academia Europaea and of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and Knighthood of The Danish Flag for his contribution to computer science. In 2000 he received the Danish Engineers Association IT award for his efforts in shaping research, innovation and education in computing science and engineering for almost 25 years.

Prof. Bjørner has been a co-developer of several formal methods and their associated specification languages: first the pioneering VDM/Meta-IV and later the RAISE Method. VDM and RAISE have been used extensively in industry worldwide. He also led what was perhaps the first large-scale rigorous use of formal methods: the formalisation of the CHILL and Ada programming languages, and, based on the formalisations, the subsequent development of compilers for these two languages. Versions of the Ada compiler are still around. Most recently, Prof. Bjørner founded the discipline of Domain Science & Engineering.

His contribution to the development of VDM has been substantial, in number of people engaged, and long lasting. The later VDM standard includes many of his original ideas, and is in use to this day. VDM must be said to have been one of the most influential formal methods in the early days of the field.

The testimony of a long-term collaborator points out that just like Ernest Hemingway said: “if you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast”, he, the collaborator, says: “if you are lucky enough to have learned VDM as a young person, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for VDM is a movable feast”.

Colleagues point out that Prof. Bjørner has always been able to see beyond the present, and across geographical frontiers. He carried the FM flag worldwide. Besides being a visionary, his energy and enthusiasm have helped shape the formal methods community. Prof. Bjørner has been tireless in contributing and spearheading new ideas, he has been generous to others, he has touched the lives and careers of many scientists in the field.

Author: Einar Broch Johnsen