Remembering Gerald (Jerry) Weinberg

15 August

Some years ago I sat down with Jerry Weinberg hoping to persuade him to travel from the USA to Australia and New Zealand, to speak at a SoftEd conference. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm to have someone of his calibre come “down under” was not met with similar enthusiasm on his part! Jerry was already having health problems and that long plane trip to the edge of the earth just did not appeal.

That was our loss, because Jerry Weinberg was one of the founding fathers of how we go about building software. Those younger than I may not recognise his name, but his influence was profound. Indeed, the Computer Hall of Fame in the Computer Museum of America contains just five names – Charles Babbage, the Englishman from the nineteenth century who invented the modern computer; the famous Grace Hopper, one of the world’s first programmers, who invented COBOL; James Martin, another Englishman who pioneered “computer aided software engineering”; the late Edward Yourdon, who did make the journey, several times, from New York to SoftEd’s Wellington office; and Gerald Weinberg.

Jerry’s work started with IBM in 1956, where he became the Manager of Operating Systems Development for Project Mercury, which aimed to put an American into orbit around the earth. In 1963 he gained a PhD in Communication Sciences. A few years later he formed Weinberg & Weinberg, from where he delivered consulting, writing and speaking. More recently he was a visiting professor at three American universities.              

Weinberg wrote over 40 books, the two most famous being The Psychology of Computer Programming and Introduction to General Systems Thinking. These books were hugely influential in how we go about constructing software. He also wrote extensively about being a consultant. Weinberg is widely regarded as a leading teacher of the psychology and anthropology of software development. 

Gerald Weinberg died on 7 August, 2018 at the age of 84. He was, unlike most of those who attach the words to their name, a true thought leader. 

Post by Martyn Jones