As a child, Gérard Berry was so fascinated with chemistry that he built his own lab, but once he discovered his first computer, he knew the machine was for him. In 1982, the pioneering computer scientist began developing Esterel, a time- and event-focused programming language that would eventually be used in avionics, communications systems, microprocessor design, and many other areas. In September, Berry was awarded the CNRS Gold Medal, the most prestigious scientific research honor in France. He holds the first permanent chair in computer science at the Collège de France, and he now is turning his focus to diffuse programming, or controlling the connected objects that make up the Internet of Things.
How were you introduced to computer science?
I studied mathematics and physics at École Polytechnique, one of the main schools in France, and I discovered my first computer there in 1968. That was an old computer, but I really understood very fast that a computer is exactly the opposite of a human being. It's really fast, really exact, and completely stupid. So it was interesting to figure out how to speak to this beast so that we could have it do whatever we couldn't do ourselves.