Eugene Edward McDonnell

Resident of Palo Alto

Oct. 18, 1926 — Aug. 17, 2010

Eugene McDonnell, a computer science pioneer and long-time contributor to the APL programming language died peacefully at home in Palo Alto on August 17th.

He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on October 18th, 1926, one of four children born to Eugene Francis McDonnell and Helen Julia Powers. He is survived by his wife Jeanne Farr McDonnell, to whom he was devoted for 54 years, their five children and five grandchildren. He was a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School and enlisted in the army at age 17 where he served as an infantry corporal. He attended the University of Kentucky on the GI Bill, and had a scholarship to Harvard where he studied comparative literature. He and Jeanne were married on May 12th, 1956, when he worked for Western Union. He then started at IBM in 1960 where he helped design the company’s first time-sharing system, and where he received a patent for an “Information Transfer Control System” which allowed communication between two users: a basis for instant messaging. Eugene joined I.P. Sharp Associates in 1978, where he worked until retirement in 1990.

Eugene was passionate about books and poetry, had committed to memory poems from ancient to contemporary works and he was a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. He enjoyed crossword puzzles and games like bridge and cribbage. Other interests in his life were history, travel, mathematics, baseball, bird-watching and nature walks with his wife.

A celebration of his life will be held at the family home in Palo Alto on Sunday, August 29th, from 2 to 6 pm. Friends and family are welcome. Thoughts and memories can be shared online at .

Published in San Jose Mecury News/San Mateo County Times on 2010-08-22.

original writing:  2010-08-23 20:10
last updated:2010-08-23 22:55