An autumn day in Dublin, 1843. Probably a grey sky but fine enough for a walk along the banks of the Royal Canal. A distinguished academic mathematician in early middle age is out for stroll with his wife. He is lost in thought, worrying at the problem that has bothered him for some time -- the extension of complex numbers to higher spatial dimensions. In one of those moments of which mathematical legend is made, an elegant solution occurs to him and, in an act of somehow excusable vandalism, he carves his formula into the stone of nearby Broom Bridge. This is the moment at which William Rowan Hamilton invents the quaternion. He will go on to champion quaternions in science and mathematics, writing several major (and long) books on them. In later centuries they will be widely applied in areas of engineering that Hamilton can not begin to imagine as he carries on his walk from Broom Bridge.
An autumn day in Dublin, 145 years later. A taxi pulls up at Broom Bridge. Besides rain, the other characteristic feature of Dublin is its lunatic taxi drivers, but even this one is perplexed. Is this it? Have we found it? And what on earth are we doing here? His passengers-- a scientist with a small group of his students and friends --step out to view the memorial plaque that now graces the notoriously hard-to-find bridge where Hamilton carved his equation. The scientist is Dines Bjørner, who knows the value of a little practice over a lot of theory, and has escaped from the VDM'88 symposium to take his crew on a hectic taxi ride through the city to pay respects to a great moment in engineering mathematics. But do you want to know the whole truth? He had lured his little group out of the conference by telling them they were going to a whiskey tasting -- and, after honouring Hamilton, that's what they did.
The story tells us something about Dines Bjørner: about his social character, his preference for activity over passivity, and about how almost every meeting with him is an Event. We have heard a great deal about our friend's scientific achievements, but to understand a little more of the impact that he has had on the world of software technology, I have created some snapshots from the last 35 years. Admittedly this is only half of his span, but it's the half that I know about and to which I could find witnesses (I never promised them anonymity but remain open to offers.)
Roll back about 15 years from that day in Dublin. In the spring of 1973 the Bjørners: Dines, Kari, Charlotte and Nikolai, are arriving in Vienna. It's worth noting the huge importance of family to Dines, and especially to honour his remarkable wife. Those of us who know them I think agree that more than the tie has been fashioned by Kari.
But back to Vienna in 1973. IBM's laboratory does not know what is about to hit it. Dines' contributions to programming language semantics have been praised already today, but who has heard of his legendary cocktails, guaranteed to settle any technical argument one way or another [Dines interjected: yes - my way!]. At one point he caused a run on pineapples in his local flagship food market (I think they had enough rum). Or did you know the fact that he has single-handedly revived the Austrian wine industry, notably in Burgenland? I do not say this in order to suggest that Dines is an old soak, but to point out that the hospitality of Dines, Kari and their family has been endless, because they know the importance of what goes on in the margins.
When the Vienna group dispersed, Dines was one of the first to secure a new role, free this time of IBM. He worked briefly at Copenhagen University before returning to the Technical University of Denmark at Lyngby, an institution with which he had a sometimes troubled relationship, but through which he wrought many of his achievements.
So what is he like as a teacher? What is it like to see this man stride in to the lecture room? His students (for I have asked some) remark on three aspects: his charisma, his intellectual rigour but mainly his splendid ties. Actually rigour was the main property: a student asked him why only thirty passed out of 120 who attempted his course, to which the answer was that he didn't need any more than that! But if you became his project student you were immediately connected to the leaders in your field. That's because Dines Knows Everyone!
I want to disagree slightly with the suggestion in Mathai's speech this morning that little in Dines' past prepared him very obviously for his role at UNU-IIST. In fact, Dines is a serial founder of things: institutes, companies, associations. He was instrumental in founding DDC, the Dansk Datamatik Center, and the great achievement in the development of that first European validated Ada compiler. Indeed, a feature of the Danish School of VDM and of RAISE was its intention to put industrial-scale engineering at the heart of things. I suspect that this has something to do with Dines' passionate desire to use technology, to apply it and learn from the application.
I have to inject a personal note here. My first conference as a PhD student was the VDM Europe VDM&Z symposium in Kiel, chaired by Prof. Langmaack. On returning to Manchester I remarked that I expected the senior figures to be less remote and insecure, keener to associate with and encourage us youngsters -- apart from one big chap, who did me the courtesy of asking a question after my talk and who seemed to want me to sign his copy of the proceedings! The remark reminded Cliff Jones, my supervisor, of a WG2.3 meeting when Dines's presentation attracted abrasive criticism from Edsger Dijkstra who was suggesting that perhaps he was a little too cocky. Dines instant response was that overconfidence is a particular fault of people who come from small countries. Not quite the diplomat.
When it comes to the stuff of which academic departments are made, there's nothing like a solid, safe, predictable colleague. And Dines Bjørner is nothing like a solid, safe predictable colleague. He is the stuff from which great institutions are made: bold, imaginative, irrepressible, a little irresponsible.
And so we come to UNU-IIST. If ever there was project made for Dines, it was this. It was full of risk. It required real diplomacy, vision and international coordination on a scale that the Formal Methods community had not previously attempted. How did he do it? Well, of course, Dines Knows Everybody! More than that, he has a passionate regard for people, and knows just how far he can push them!
I've experienced this as chairman of FME (co-founded by Dines). We run the FM series of symposia, perhaps the most successful of which was the 1999 event in Toulouse (chaired by Dines!). I've run many meetings involving him and I'm grateful for the many character-building opportunities that this has afforded. It has always been instructive to observe the interesting relationship between Dines and the FME Treasury. I deny the rumours surrounding FM99 event that the French had dispatched a group of crack foreign legionnaires to kidnap Dines in the hope of stemming his constant flow of ideas. How wonderful it is to have such a powerhouse of energy and vision --on your side! It is Dines' urgency of vision, coupled with care and respect for his fellow travellers in formal methods, that made UNU-IIST such a success. That flowing stream of ideas carries on: Dines retired is behaviourally equivalent to Dines before retirement.
So here we are, about to reach the 70th Birthday of this big, generous host who made Vienna so lively, the rigorous teacher who educated the talents of so many at Lyngby; the energetic UNU-IIST director, not too much the safe academic, not quite the diplomat. He is, you know, shy and retiring (so much so that, with his new beard, he is pretending to be Chris George), but let us risk embarrassing him by raising our glasses to him.
The memorial stone of the British architect Christopher Wren, in the crypt of his greatest creation, St Paul's Cathedral, reads Lector, Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice (Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you.) The two men we honour today are a long way from needing a memorial, but, listener, if you seek one, look around you --at these people -- at UNU-IIST, its staff and Fellows, the scientists, engineers, teachers that they have coaxed, encouraged and inspired across the world. Like William Hamilton, we have no inkling what use may be made of our ideas in the future, but we can inform and inspire the next generation. People are Dines Bjørner's great achievement; not just science, but scientists.
I think I am a friend of Dines, maybe even after this speech. I think this because he is the only person who sends me emails signed Fondly, Dines. Please join me standing, raise your glass, and offer him the greeting back - fondly -- Dines!
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