Gilles Kahn was born in Paris on April 17th, 1946 and died in Garches, near Paris, on February 9th, 2006. He received an engineering diploma from Ecole Polytechnique (class of 1964), studied for a few years in Stanford and then joined the computer science branch of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), which was to become the CISI company. He joined the French research institute in computer science and control theory (IRIA, later renamed INRIA) in 1976. He stayed with this institute until his death, at which time he was the chief executive officer of the institute. He was a member of Academia Europaea from 1995 and a member of the French Academy of Science from 1997.
Gilles Kahn's scientific achievements
Gilles Kahn's scientific interests evolved from the study of programming language semantics to the design and implementation of programming tools and the study of the interaction between programming activities and proof verification activities. In plain words, these themes addressed three questions. How do programmers tell a computer to perform a specific task? What tools can we provide to programmers to help them in their job? In particular, how can programmers provide guarantees that computers will perform the task that was requested?
Programming language semantics
In the early 1970s, Gilles Kahn proposed that programs should be described as collections of processes communicating through a network of channels, a description style that is now known as Kahn networks.