Wilfried Brauer#

Obituary, Academia Europaea
Obituary and book of condolence, Javier Esparza, TU Munich


Javier Esparza, TU Munich

Wilfried Brauer was born in 1937 in Berlin. He studied Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy at the Free University of Berlin, and received a PhD in 1966 from the University of Bonn. Between 1967 and 1970 he taught some of the first Computer Science courses in Germany, and wrote together with Klaus Indermark the first German Computer Science textbook. After his Habilitation in 1970, also at the University of Bonn, he was appointed the first professor in Computer Science at the University of Hamburg in 1971. In 1985 he became the first holder of the Chair of Theoretical Computer Science and Foundations of Artificial Intelligence of the Technische Universität München.

Wilfried Brauer was one of the first authors in the emerging field of Theoretical Computer Science in the 1960s and early 1970s. During the 70s he contributed to the theory of finite automata, with publications about the transition monoid, the cascade decomposition, and the theory of automata over arbitrary monoids. This work is documented in his 1984 monograph on automata theory. Since the late 70s Brauer became interested in the theory of distributed systems, in particular the theory of Petri nets and process algebras. In the 90s he worked intensely on the foundations of Artificial Intelligence, with numerous contributions to the theory of neural networks and multiagent systems.

Always in collaboration with his wife Ute, Wilfried Brauer decisively contributed to shaping, structuring, and expanding the TCS community, particularly in Europe. He was vice-president of the European Association of Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS) from 1985 to 1994, and president of the same society from 1994 to 1997. Together with his wife he wrote the Silver Jubilee article on the history of EATCS that can still be found at the home page of the organization. He also played an equally important role in the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), of which he was vice-president from 1994 to 1999. In Germany, Wilfried Brauer was president of the German Society for Informatics, the main German professional organization in Computer Science, from 1977 to 1979.

Wilfried Brauer was also very active as editor of journals and book series. In 1983 he became, together with G. Rozenberg and A. Salomaa, one of the founding editors of the EATCS Series of Monographs in Theoretical Computer Science. The series has published 57 volumes in all areas of Theoretical Computer Science, including many classic texts. In 1978 he became the first Editor in Chief of Informatik Spektrum, the main periodical of the German Society for Informatics. He stayed in this post until 1998. He co-authored a UNESCO-IFIP curriculum, which was translated into several languages, and in Germany he co-authored the “Studien- und Forschungsführer Informatik”, a guide to Computer Science studies that very much contributed to establishing Computer Science as a discipline.

Already in the 70s, Ute and Wilfried Brauer argued that proper general education has to incorporate basic notions of Computer Science. In their influential publication “Informatics in School – Why and How?” (in German), they presented a vision of computer science education that is still relevant and suitable today. In 1989 Wilfried Brauer organized the first congress on Computer Science Education in Germany. More recently he substantially influenced the introduction of Computer Science as a subject in Bavarian high schools.

Wilfried Brauer received numerous awards for his achievements, including honorary doctorates from the Free University of Berlin and the University of Hamburg, the honorary membership of the German Society for Informatics, the first Fellowship of the University of Bremen, the IFIP Silver Core, the Werner Heisenberg Medal of the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, and the IFIP Isaac L. Auerbach Award. He was a regular member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and the Humanities since 1996, and member of acatech, the technical division of the German Academy of Science.

Wolfgang Wahlster, former PhD student of Wilfried Brauer and a leading German computer scientist, described him in these words: “a cultivated and worldly man, a patient listener that approaches people with wit and humour ... He combines in his person the archetypes of the German public servant and the English gentleman.”

He will be very missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his wife and closest collaborator Ute Brauer.

Javier Esparza

Wilfried Brauer (1937–2014) in memoriam. Personal recollections(info), Grzegorz Rozenberg and Arto Salomaa

Wilfried Brauer (1937–2014) in memoriam#

Personal recollections

Grzegorz Rozenberg and Arto Salomaa

At the end of February this year we received the sad tidings of the passing of Wilfried Brauer. Although not quite unexpected, the tidings still left us with a feeling of sorrow and longing. We had lost a close friend, a remarkable scientist and an influential administrator. Wilfried was one of the early pioneers of theoretical computer science in Europe. He was active in the founding stages of EATCS and the IFIP working group TC–1, and made significant contributions also to the working group TC–3. Through his activities as EATCS President, IFIP Vice President and the Chairman of the Gesellschaft f¨ur Informatik, as well as through his scientific work and that of his students, Wilfried Brauer made a lasting contribution to the theoretical computer science community. This is visible also in his many decorations, such as honorary doctorates from the University of Hamburg and the Freie Universit¨at Berlin, Werner Heisenberg Medal and IFIP Isaac L. Auerbach Award.

However, the purpose of this writing is not to dwell on such formal matters. We would rather want to bring forward happenings and recollections from the forty years we had the privilege of knowing Wilfried and working with him.

Wilfried could handle difficult matters in a smooth and balanced way. As far as we remember, he never lost his temper. Another very characteristic feature of Wilfried was that age seemed to have no influence on his outer appearance. He was still in the new millennium the same joking boyish Wilfried we got to know in the early 70’s.

Wilfried belonged to the early small European community working in theoretical computer science. We got to know Wilfried and his wife Ute at Oberwolfach meetings in the early 70’s. Wilfried seemed to know everybody well and was interested in new emerging fields of study. Lindenmayer systems constituted such a field. Working in L systems, we got invitations to Hamburg. During such visits we also enjoyed hospitality in Brauers’ home at Gustav Leo Strasse.

Most of our meetings with Wilfried were connected to the work with Springer–Verlag. The book series EATCS Monographs in Theoretical Computer Science was launched at ICALP in Antwerp in 1983. The representatives of Springer–Verlag were then Gerhard Rossbach and Ingeborg Mayer. Rossbach was replaced by Hans W¨ossner at the end of the 80’s. Wilfried, the two of us and the two representatives of Springer-Verlag met a couple of times yearly, usually at ICALP conferences and in Grzegorz’s home in Bilthoven. Most of the time Ute accompanied Wilfried. Then Grzegorz’s wife Maja and Ute had a special “ladies’ program”. The Bilthoven meetings gradually developed a specific format allowing ample time for work. Discussions continued during the Dutch breakfast by Grzegorz and lunch with Maja’s “monograph soup” as the main course. Our meetings often culminated with a magic show of Grzegorz. Wilfried joined the enthusiasm of the audience.

Wilfried’s experience and personal connections were invaluable for the success of our book series. Especially in delicate matters he was able to provide us with important information by contacting appropriate referees.

Wilfried did not attend the last Bilthoven meeting in 2007. We sent him a picture of owls with the text Bilthoven owls miss the other wise owl.

Wilfried and Ute became our close family friends. For instance, they wrote a paper about the jeep problem with the subtitle How to bring a birthday present to Salosauna. The present, a small teddy bear, became the most precious toy for Arto’s granddaughter and was named Wilfried. Wilfried and the bear Wilfried appeared together at the ICALP in Vienna in 1992, as seen from photos in the EATCS Bulletin. The bear Wilfried is still in good shape.

Wilfried was a great fan of classical music and attended concerts and opera performances with Ute. If there was an interesting performance in another country, the distance constituted no obstacle for them. Wilfried explained that it is often difficult for him to get rid of thoughts concerning work. During the overture of an opera he might still think about phone calls he has to make. But then everything else vanishes, and he is in the world of the opera. It was a superb present for Arto when Wilfried hosted his visit to the Bayreuth Festival in 2005.

Our dear friend Wilfried, we miss you. We miss your wise advice and your relaxing dinners where fish dishes had to be excluded. We miss our discussions about professional, as well as other matters. Sit tibi terra levis.

Bilthoven and Turku, March 2014

Grzegorz Rozenberg and Arto Salomaa
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