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Arie Nicolaas (Nico) Habermann Papers

Identifier: 1997-0001

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the academic, professional, and personal papers of Arie Nicolaas (Nico) Habermann, Ph.D., stored in 9 record center boxes. The collection includes publications, lecture materials, book translations, computer program designs, teaching materials, letters, e-mail printouts, contracts, and administrative reports regarding Habermann's academic, corporate, and scientific involvements.

The collection is arranged into twelve series: Personal, Correspondence, Books, Papers, Editorial, Teaching, External Relations, Consulting, Talks, Trips, Colleagues, and Documentation

The arrangement of the collection has sought to retain as much of Habermann's original ordering as possible while eliminating obvious filing errors and circumstantial lapses, such as occurred in the correspondence filing during the late years in which his career was divided between Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). In the refoldering process, material on individual topics originally filed over time in several small folders have been combined for cohesion. Folder titles reproduce important secretarial notes on Habermann's use of folder contents; in many cases, the notes were the only resources for a records history.

Arrangement revisions of original order are recorded in the Records History or Scope and Content Notes for individual series. Secretary Phyllis Pomerantz and administrative assistant Sharon Burks (former Carnegie Mellon employees) were consulted on the method of original ordering, and their comments informed the series documentation.

Due to the interrelation of Habermann's associations, the thickly interspersed correspondence, and the original ordering emphasis, the researcher is encouraged to examine all series to locate topic-specific materials. A further incentive is the existence of Habermann annotations and program design notes on unlikely documents and on the backs of documents, a circumstance reflecting his busy lifestyle and fecund mind.

Documentation of Habermann's educational methods and materials may be found in the Teaching and Talks series. Record of Habermann's corporate, academic, computer industry and computer science organization advisory career is contained in the Consulting, Talks, and Trips series. For advisory-related work in securing and implementing corporate and government funding of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and other CMU Computer Science programs, see the External Relations, Consulting, Teaching, Talks, and Trips series.

Habermann's writings and classroom or audience presentations on Ada and other programming language and on the Gandalf program development system are divided among the Books, Papers, Teaching, Talks, and Trips series. Further work in systems and software design may also be found in the Papers, Talks, and Trips series. For further details, consult the Records History and Scope and Content Notes for each series.

According to secretarial custom dictated by Habermann himself, letters and e-mails pertaining to specific interests, events, or activities are located in the file folder pertaining to that topic. However, much topic-specific correspondence was filed as miscellaneous correspondence, an arrangement reproduced in the Correspondence series. Within topic folders, correspondence has been rearranged chronologically from the secretarial reverse-chronological order. Paper-wrapped "bundles" of correspondence represent multiple documents originally stapled together; due to processing time constraints, these bundled documents have been left in reverse chronological order.

This finding aid was revised during a reparative language review in the March of 2024. A copy of the legacy finding aid can be accessed by emailing See the revision statement for more information.


  • 1967-1993



Biography or History

Arie Nicolaas (Nico) Habermann (b. Groningen, Netherlands June 26, 1932; d. Pittsburgh, PA August 8, 1993) earned his B.S. in Mathematics and Physics and M.S. in Mathematics from the Free University of Amsterdam in 1953 and 1958, respectively. After a career as a secondary mathematics instructor, he achieved his doctorate in Applied Mathematics from the Technological University at Eindhoven (1967), where he was also engaged as a lecturer.

In 1968 Habermann was invited to the Department of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as a visiting research scientist; in the next year, he was appointed associate professor. Promoted to full professor in 1974, he became acting Department Head in 1979 and served as official department head from 1980 to 1988. In the latter year he was named founding dean of the new CMU School of Computer Science (SCS), established under the co-direction of Allen Newell and Herbert Simon.

With Howard Wactlar, Habermann co-founded CMU's Software Engineering Institute (SEI) in 1985, having headed the faculty team that developed the winning proposal for that enterprise. With the support of university president Richard Cyert and faculty members such as Newell and Raj Reddy, Habermann was instrumental in attracting funding for SEI academic programs and graduate student research from foreign and American corporations (Siemens, ASCII, General Electric, et alia), and from US government agencies (Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research). Despite his administrative achievements, Habermann retained a personal commitment to computer science education, as reflected in the ordering of his customary signature: "A. N. Habermann, Professor and Dean". At CMU, he supervised more than twenty Ph.D. theses.

Habermann's research interests lay in programming languages, operating systems, programming environments, and the development of large software systems. He was known for his work on the avoidance of system deadlocks, process communication, process synchronization by path expression, program reusability, and software verification. He was renowned for his work in the programs ALGOL 60, BLISS, Pascal, in the Department of Defense language Ada, and for creating the Gandalf program development system, which provided a user-friendly environment for system construction and maintenance. In addition, he contributed to practical and experimental operating systems such as Dutch professor E. W. Dijkstra's THE System, the Family of Operating Systems (FAMOS) at CMU, the Dynamically Adaptable System (DAS) of Berlin, Germany, and UNIX. He authored two textbooks: Introduction to Operating Systems Design (Science Research Associates, 1976); and, with Dewayne E. Perry, ADA for Experienced Programmers (Addison-Wesley, 1983).

Habermann enjoyed worldwide demand as a lecturer, conference program committee member, evaluator of university Computer Science programs, science institution board member or advisor, consultant to corporate research and design departments (including Siemens and IBM), and even as an expert witness in computer systems-related legal arbitration. His prominence in and dedication to the computer science field led him to highly-regarded editorial work for the journals of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and the IEEE (Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers) journal, among other organizations. His paper reviews and oversight of reviews by valued colleagues established scientific standards of cogency and usefulness in the literature of the discipline.

Habermann served as a visiting professor at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England (1973), the Technological University of Berlin, Germany (1976), and as an adjunct professor of Computer Science at Jiao Tong University, Shanghai (1986-1993). During an academic leave from CMU, he served as the assistant dirctor for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation (NSF), an organization he had previously served in several capacities. During this time, Habermann continued his administrative duties to SCS and SEI and was honored by CMU as the Alan J. Perlis Professor of Computer Science. His devoted engagement in the furthering of the university and of computer science was cut short by his sudden death, by a massive heart attack, at the age of 62. He was survived by his wife Marta (née Blom), son Frits, and daughters Eveline Killian and Irene and Marianne Habermann.


16.0 Linear feet (16 boxes)




This collection consists of 16 linear feet of papers pertaining to the former dean of the School of Computer Science's research in the areas of programming languages, software engineering, and programming environments.


This collection was transferred from the office of A. N. Habermann to the Carnegie Mellon University Archives in 1997.




David A. Andrews, 7 August, 1998

Arie Nicolaas (Nico) Habermann Papers, 1967-1993
May 29, 2008
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2024-03-16: This finding aid was revised during a reparative language review in March 2024. Overly laudatory and gendered language was removed and/or updated as its inclusion was not necessary to provide historical context.

Repository Details

Part of the Carnegie Mellon University Archives Repository

4909 Frew St
Pittsburgh PA 15213
(412) 268-5021