Donald B. Gillies Memorial Lecture

The Donald B. Gillies Memorial Lectureship in Computer Science was established at the University of Illinois through memorial gifts by family and friends, with a major contribution by the Digital Equipment Corporation.

Professor Gillies, a native of Canada, did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto, and received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1953. While in graduate school he worked as a graduate assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study with John von Neumann in the fields of game theory and computer science. Before coming to the University of Illinois in 1956, he spent two years with the National Research Development Corporation at Cambridge University and London, England. He was among the first mathematicians to become involved in the computer field, helping to calculate the first Sputnik orbit and later discovering three new prime numbers in the course of checking out ILLIAC II. (For nearly a decade, the latter was commemorated by the Mathematics Department with a postage mark stamped on all outgoing mail.) Before his death in 1975, he was experimenting with educational uses and networking possibilities of minicomputers.

Donald Gillies
Donald Gillies

Although a lifelong stutter affected his class lectures, Gillies was an inspiration to his students, taking an interest in both their professional and personal lives. Long before timesharing terminals, minicomputers and microprocessors made “hands on” computer experience commonplace, he recognized the need for students to have this opportunity and implemented a system to provide it. For example, during a family vacation to Canada, he picked up a newly developed Fortran compiler from the University of Waterloo so it could be implemented at Illinois, his son Don (MS CS '90, PhD CS '93) recalled. With its quick turnaround capabilities, this compiler enabled the university to offer programming classes to non-CS students for the first time. 

Throughout his work and teaching he stressed the importance of the ethical use of computing machines in contemporary science. Dedicated to the honest uses of technology, environmentally concerned, a man of wit, vigor and understanding, he challenged and stimulated all who knew him.

It is hoped that the Donald B. Gillies Lectureship in Computer Science will continue to enrich the lives of students and colleagues as an appropriate memorial to a man whose intellectual excellence and moral purpose made him a distinguished teacher and scientist.

Past Lecturers

Systems Research - Construed Broadly Dec. 3, 2019 Margo I. Seltzer
Self-Supervised Visual Learning and Synthesis Oct. 8, 2018 Alexei A. Efros
My Top Ten Fears About the DBMS Field Apr. 9, 2018 Michael Stonebraker
Intelligent Robots in an Uncertain World Oct. 16, 2017 Leslie Pack Kaelbling
Local Computational Algorithms Dec. 5, 2016 Ronitt Rubinfeld
Magic Moments in Research and Teaching Feb. 18, 2016 Jennifer Widom
Software-Defined Networking: Introduction and Retrospective Apr. 28, 2014 Scott Shenker
Algorithms, Graph Theory, and the Solution of Laplacian Linear Equations Mar. 11, 2013 Daniel Spielman
Mesos: A Platform for Fine-Grained Resource Sharing in the Data Center Apr. 30, 2012 Randy Katz
Open Government: Innovation at the Department of Veterans Feb. 28, 2011 Peter L. Levin
Exploring New Graphics Data Structures Designed for GPU Parallelism Mar. 30, 2009 Hugues Hoppe
Research at Pixar Animation Studios Feb. 25, 2008 Tony DeRose
Unleashing the Computer's Potential for Communication Apr. 16, 2007 David Salesin
Looking for Bugs in All the RIGHT Places May 2, 2005 Elaine Weyuker
Taming the Infinite: Verification of Infinite-State Systems Nov. 17, 2003 Amir Pnueli
Converting Cycles into RASS (Reliability, Availability, Serviceability, Security) Dec. 2, 2002 Monica S. Lam
Kinetic Data Structures Mar. 25, 2002 Leonidas Guibas
Processing Petabytes: Turning Trees info Forests Apr. 23, 2001 Jim Gray