A movie on Alan Turing called "The Imitation Game" was released this year. That inspired me to find a bisexual person who also effected computer science and seeing how it is June (pride month) I feel now is a good time to highlight him. Peter Landin's monumental breakthrough was the idea that computer programs can be defined in terms of mathematical formula.

At the time computer programming languages were tied to machines, programs written for one machine would not run on another. Landin was an expert in lambda calculus and used it to express computer programs in the standard language of mathematics. His most influential work was "The next 700 programming languages" in which he claimed that all programming languages of the time were just different representations of lambda calculus (he read in the Journal of the Association of Computing Machinery that there were 700 programming languages in existence at the time). His ideas are used to this day, Javascript, the programming language of the web uses functions based on his notation of a functional 'closure'. The word 'closure' represents a function together with a referencing environment, this usage of the word was created by Landin.

Unlike many, computing didn't consume his life. He was an accomplished musician and would end technical seminars by playing piano duets. He was always into radical politics participated in many demonstrations. As time passed he lost interest in computer science and dedicated himself to the Gay Liberation Front of the early 1970's. He and his wife separated without devoice. He acted more as a facilitator than on the front lines of marches, arrested only once at a GLF demonstration. Conceived a play called "AIDS the musical" at one of his house dinner parties. His home became a regular meeting point of the LGBT community. His wit, modesty and intellect pervaded his life. Late in life he became convinced his work in computing had been a bad idea, supporting profit-taking corporate interests and a surveillance state but he never abandoned those who were still perusing the subject.

Source: Mostly his obituary in the Guardian, supplemented with a few other obituaries by friends and classmates.


Asher is an editor at Bitopia and student studying computers and graphic design. fan of hyperspheres. @Asher on the Twitter.