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Richard Stallman

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Richard Matthew Stallman is a software developer and software freedom activist. In 1983 he announced the project to develop the GNU operating system, a Unix-like operating system meant to be entirely free software, and has been the project's leader ever since. With that announcement Stallman also launched the Free Software Movement. In October 1985 he started the Free Software Foundation.

The GNU/Linux system, which is a variant of GNU that also uses the kernel Linux developed by Linus Torvalds, are used in tens or hundreds of millions of computers, and are now preinstalled in computers available in retail stores. However, the distributors of these systems often disregard the ideas of freedom which make free software important.

That is why, since the mid-1990s, Stallman has spent most of his time in political advocacy for free software, and spreading the ethical ideas of the movement, as well as campaigning against both software patents and dangerous extension of copyright laws. Before that, Stallman developed a number of widely used software components of the GNU system, including the original Emacs, the GNU Compiler Collection, the GNU symbolic debugger (gdb),GNU Emacs, and various other programs for the GNU operating system.

Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft, and is the main author of the GNU General Public License, the most widely used free software license.

Stallman gives speeches frequently about free software and related topics. Common speech titles include "The GNU Operating System and the Free Software movement", "The Dangers of Software Patents", and "Copyright and Community in the Age of the Computer Networks". A fourth common topic consists of explaining the changes in version 3 of the GNU General Public License, which was released in June 2007.

In 1999, Stallman called for development of a free on-line encyclopedia through the means of inviting the public to contribute articles.

After personal meetings, Stallman has obtained positive statements about free software from the then-President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, from French 2007 presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, and from the president of Ecuador Rafael Correa. In Venezuela, Stallman has promoted the adoption of free software in the state's oil company (PDVSA), in municipal government, and in the nation's military.

Stallman's writings on free software issues can be found in Free Software, Free Society (GNU Press, ISBN 1-882114-98-1). He has received the following awards:

  • 1986: Honorary life time membership in the Chalmers Computer Society
  • 1990: Receives a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship
  • 1990: The Association for Computing Machinery's Grace Murray Hopper Award "For pioneering work in the development of the extensible editor EMACS (Editing Macros)."
  • 1996: Honorary doctorate from Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology
  • 1998: Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer award
  • 1999: Yuri Rubinsky Memorial Award
  • 2001: The Takeda Techno-Entrepreneurship Award for Social/Economic Well-Being
  • 2001: Honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow
  • 2002: United States National Academy of Engineering membership
  • 2003: Honorary doctorate from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • 2003: Honorary professorship from the Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería del Perú
  • 2004: Honorary doctorate from the Universidad Nacional de Salta, in Argentina
  • 2004: Honorary professorship from the Universidad Tecnológica del Perú
  • 2005: Fundazione Pistoletto prize
  • 2007: Honorary professorship from the Universidad Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, in Peru
  • 2007: First Premio Iternacional Extremadura al Conocimiento Libre
  • 2007: Honorary doctorate from the Universidad de Los Angeles de Chimbote, in Peru
  • 2007: Honorary doctorate from the University of Pavia
  • 2008: Honorary doctorate from the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, in Peru
  • 2009: Honorary doctor of science degree from Lakehead University in Canada
  • 2008: Honorary doctorate from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, in Argentina

Stallman graduated from Harvard in 1974 with a BA in physics. During his college years, he also worked as a staff hacker at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, learning operating system development by doing it. He wrote the first extensible Emacs text editor there in 1975. He also developed the AI technique of dependency-directed backtracking, also known as truth maintenance. In January 1984 he resigned from MIT to start the GNU project.

Richard Stallman's 1983 biographyEdit

(this biography was published in the first edition of "The Hacker's Dictionary".)

I was built at a laboratory in Manhattan around 1953, and moved to the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1971. My hobbies include affection, international folk dance, flying, cooking, physics, recorder, puns, science fiction fandom, and programming; I magically get paid for doing the last one. About a year ago i split up with the PDP-10 computer to which I was married for ten years. We still love each other, but the world is taking us in different directions. For the moment I still live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, among our old memories. "Richard Stallman" is just my mundane name; you can call me "rms".

(jpeg 2k) (jpeg 64k) There is a black-and-white photograph of me as a 5820K Encapsulated Postscript file, a 3762K JPEG file, and a 5815K TIFF file.

Here is a color photo in JPEG format.

[1] Here is a more recent photo.

Photos and drawingsEdit

"You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul." - Mahatma Gandhi



  • A photo from a recent interview.
  • A photo of RMS with a large "aureole" by Roberto Brenlla.

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