Harold "Bud" Lawson


Harold W. “Bud” Lawson has been active in the computing and systems arena since 1958 and has broad international experience in private and public organizations as well as academic environments. Experienced in many facets of computing and computer-based systems, including systems and software engineering, computer architecture, real-time, programming languages and compilers, operating systems, life-cycle process standards, various application domains as well as computer and systems related education and training.

Received the Bachelor of Science degree from Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the PhD degree from the Royal Technical University, Stockholm, Sweden. Contributed to several pioneering efforts in hardware and software technologies at Univac, IBM, Standard Computer Corporation, and Datasaab. Permanent and visiting professorial appointments at several universities including Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, University of California, Irvine, Universidad Politecnica de Barcelona, Linköpings University, Royal Technical University, University of Malaya and Keio University. Honorary Professor in the Swedish Graduate School of Computer Science and Academic Fellow in the School of Systems and Enterprises at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ.

Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, Fellow and Life Member of the IEEE, Fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering, ACM Distinguished Lecturer, IEEE European Distinguished Visitor, Member of the ACM Fellows Committee (1997-2001), Founding member of SIGMICRO, EUROMICRO, the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on the Engineering of Computer-Based Systems, the Swedish National Association for Real-Time (SNART), the Swedish chapters of ENCRESS and INCOSE. Chairman (1999-2000) Technical Committee on the Engineering of Computer-Based Systems. Head of the Swedish Delegation to ISO/IEC JTC1 SC7 WG7 (1996-2004) and elected architect of the ISO/IEC 15288 standard.

In 2000, he received the prestigious IEEE Computer Pioneer Charles Babbage medal award for his 1964 invention of the pointer variable concept for programming languages and in 2016 he received the INCOSE Systems Engineering Pioneer award. In 2019, just a couple of months before Bud passed away, he was awarded with another prestigious award, IEEE Simon Ramo Award.

Harold ”Bud” Lawson was born 1937/12/13 in Philadelphia and passed away 2019/06/10 in Stockholm after a period of illness.


Harold ”Bud” Lawson (1937–2019) was a software engineer, computer architect and systems engineer. Lawson is credited with the 1964 invention of the pointer. In 2000, Lawson was presented the Computer Pioneer Award by the IEEE for his invention.

In July, 2010 he published a new book entitled A Journey Through the Systems Landscape (ISBN 978-1-84890-010-3) with College Publications. The book provides a comprehensive discipline-independent approach to learning to ”think” and ”act” in terms of systems.

Amongst several academic appointments, his last position was as Professor of Telecommunications and Computer Systems at Linköping University where he co-founded its Department of Computer and Information Science in 1983.

He is a Fellow of ACM, Fellow and Life Member of the IEEE, and Fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering INCOSE IEEE Charles Babbage Computer Pioneer and INCOSE Systems Engineering Pioneer.

Harold Lawson with Dr. Grace Murray Hopper in Linköping.


With a distinguished career that began under the mentorship of the legendary computer scientist Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, Harold “Bud” Lawson has influenced the work of millions of software designers and programmers with pioneering work in hardware, software, and real-time system technologies. One of Lawson’s greatest accomplishments was the development of the pointer variable concept to deal with complex data structures in programming languages. The pointer variable has allowed programmers to effectively create higher-level language programs to solve complex problems in applications including computer graphics and systems programs such as compilers and operating systems. First introduced in the PL/I programming language in 1965, Lawson’s pointer variable concept has been implemented in a wide variety of general- and special-purpose programming languages including C, Pascal, C++, and Ada. Lawson established the on-board software architecture for the world’s first microprocessor-based automatic train control system, where he viewed the operation as continuous instead of discrete. This led to a stable and sustainable solution that has been functioning for over 36 years in Sweden and Norway. His concepts were further developed for vehicles and have also been utilized in the Haldex four-wheel drive coupling device used in millions of automobiles around the world.

Lawson has also contributed to standards development, helping to establish processes for systems life-cycle management. He was the elected architect of the ISO/IEC 15288 Standard, which served as the basis for the International Council of Systems Engineers (INCOSE) handbook on systems engineering used for certifying systems engineers. It also provided the framework for the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBOK). Lawson also established one of the earliest programs in computer engineering (at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1967) and co-founded the first computer science department in Sweden (at Linkoping University in 1983).

An IEEE Life Fellow, Association for Computing Machinery Fellow, INCOSE Fellow and recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Computer Pioneer Award (2000) and IEEE Simon Ramo Medal (2019).

Harold Lawson with Maurice Wilkes and Gordon Bell.

Publications and contributions:
Harold Lawson have written and contributed to many books during his career.
Below are a few of them.

Order A Journey Through the Systems Landscape:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Harold Lawson started ”The System Series” with the first volume ”A Journey Through the Systems Landscape”. Many academic courses and private/public organisations across the whole world have used the book to increase their knwoledge about systems and systems thinking. The book has also been translated into French and Russian. Up to today the series contains of totally nine volumes with many prominent editors and co-writers.

About the first book of the systems series:

Systems are everywhere and affect us daily in our private and professional lives. We all use the word “system” to describe something that is essential but often abstract, complex and even mysterious. However, learning to utilize system concepts as first class objects as well as methodologies for systems thinking and systems engineering provides a basis for removing the mystery and moving towards mastery even for complex systems.

This journey through the Systems Landscape has been developed to promote learning to “think” and “act” in terms of systems. A unique aspect is the introduction of concrete system semantics provided as a “system survival kit” and based upon a limited number of concepts and principles as well as a mental model called the system-coupling diagram. This discipline independent presentation assists individuals and is essential for building a learning organization that can utilize a systems approach to achieving its enterprise goals.

The eight chapters are presented as stops along a journey that successively build system knowledge. Each chapter terminates with a Knowledge Verification section that provides questions and exercises for individuals and groups. Case studies reflecting the utilization of the system related concepts, principles and methodologies are provided as chapter interludes.

Teaching advice:

The book has been organized as a journey through eight bodies of knowledge that when taken provides a broad view of systems, systems thinking, systems engineering and change management. This is accomplished by introducing relevant concepts and principles as well as paradigms that are used to guide thinking. The book can and has been used effectively for academic as well as professional development courses. The author’s personal experience has indicated that a mix of lectures and case studies is the best approach to presenting the material.

Amazon Reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars,
An introduction to those who want to change an enterprise or set up a new one based on systems engineering principles.”,
Ingvar Wikström

5.0 out of 5 stars,
”Journey with an experieced guide!”
C. Haskins

5.0 out of 5 stars,
”Theory and practises in Systems Thinking”
– Birgitte Daniel

5.0 out of 5 stars,
A really useful book with lots of neat ideas”
H. Sillitto

5.0 out of 5 stars,
”A must read for systems engineering professionals and systems thinkers”


Harold ”Bud” Lawson – IEEE Simon Ramo Medal, 2019 IEEE Honors Ceremony
Syntell Breakfast Seminar on Software Engineering in the Systems Context with Harold ”Bud” Lawson
The World’s First COBOL Compilers

The Lawson Prize

Before Harold Lawson passed away he re-established the Lawson Prize at Linköping University’s Jubileum Foundation. The Lawson prize will be awarded to students whose work have made international contributions to computer science and/or systems engineering.

For contributions to the Lawson Prize please use the contact contact.adrianlawson [@] gmail.com

Harold Lawson at Linköping University where he co-founded the first Computer Science department in Scandinavia.

This page is administered by Harold Lawson’s son.

For any contact regarding Harold Lawson’s work, proposals and/or collaborations please contact me at:

contact.adrianlawson [@] gmail.com

All form of sales and/or marketing will be ignored.