Military Embedded Systems

AdaCore's Robert Dewar passes away


July 16, 2015

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

NEW YORK CITY. AdaCore lost its founder last month and the embedded software community lost one of its most eloquent experts with the passing of Dr. Robert Dewar, AdaCore President. Dr. Dewar succumbed to cancer on June 30, 2015. He was 70.

Robert was a pleasure to work with and frankly one of the best interviews in the business. He made complicated subjects easy to understand and never was guilty of spin, which we in the media appreciated most of all. He will be missed. Our whole team at OpenSystems Media sends its thoughts to his family and colleagues.

“Robert made a difference,” said AdaCore CEO and co-founder Franco Gasperoni. “In Africa there is a saying that you die when you are forgotten. All of us at AdaCore will keep Robert’s memory alive, and we will strive to continue the technical and business heritage that Robert has left us with.”

Over the years I've interviewed Robert many times and also worked with him on conferences and online webcasts, most recently as part of the COTS Confidential roundtable on COTS software. To read his comments click here. In our Feb/March 2014 issue he also spoke to safety certification for unmanned aircraft in an article titled "Safety certification concerns for UAVs in national airspace," and spoke on the same subject for a webcast last winter that can found here.

Dr. Dewar had a distinguished career as a Professor of Computer Science at New York University (NYU), and played was key in the design and implementation of the Ada programming language, founding AdaCore, along with four colleagues, in 1994. He served as its CEO until 2012 and as its President until his death.

At AdaCore, Dr. Dewar was the principal architect of the GNAT compiler technology and guided AdaCore’s strategic decisions that enabled the company to achieve and sustain steady growth and profitability.

Born in Oxford, England, he eventually moved to the U.S., where he attended the University of Chicago, receiving a BS in 1964 and a PhD in Chemistry in 1968. While a graduate student, he started working with computers to analyze x-ray crystallography and soon shifted careers, joining the Computer Science faculty at NYU in 1975, becoming Full Professor in 1976, and later served as the Chair of the Department.

Dr Dewar participated in the SETL project and became involved with Ada from the outset as he specialized in programming language design and implementatio. He was one of the architects of the Ada/Ed compiler at NYU, which was written in SETL and served as an operational definition of the Ada 83 language. He was actively involved with Ada throughout the language’s history, as a member of the Ada Rapporteur Group that maintains the language standard.

“Robert was at the same time a brilliant computer scientist always ready to engage in intellectual debates over technical topics, and an open and friendly human being always ready to show kindness and support in personal or social matters,” says AdaCore Managing Director and co-founder Cyrille Comar. “His intensity in technical debate was matched by his gentility in personal relationships, and I owe Robert a great debt in his helping me find and set a path toward my goals in life.”

“Robert was a genius in software design, certainly one of the best of his generation,” said Edmond Schonberg, AdaCore co-founder. “In addition, he was a tireless teacher and an exemplary stylist in all he wrote, and we learned immensely from his example, his lucid prose, and his elegant code. The best way to honor his memory will be for all of us at AdaCore to apply all he taught us about our craft, and about the core values that he stated so forcefully, and that animate all our work.”

Outside of his professional life, Dr. Dewar was a superb baritone, a bassoon and recorder player, a conductor, and a member of the North American Heckelphone Society. He was also par of the Village Light Opera Group (VLOG) in New York, serving for 35 years in numerous capacities from producer to president, from fly master to music director. He was a major benefactor and performed in a myriad of productions with the group. VLOG’s Dewar Center for the Performing Arts is named in recognition of Robert and Karin Dewar's contributions.

“In the 40 years I was working with him in various capacities, Robert was always a source of great stories and wisdom in fields far beyond computing,” said Richard Kenner, AdaCore co-founder. “He has taught all of us much in those fields as well as in computing, and those lessons will remain with us always.”

Dr. Dewar is survived by two children, Jennifer and Keith Dewar, and two grandchildren. His wife Karin predeceased him in 2013.


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