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Honorary Degree Citation - Richard M. Stallman

By: Christopher Trueman, October 2014

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Dr. Richard Stallman, founder and president of the Free Software Foundation.

Dr. Stallman is a software developer and software freedom activist. He is the pioneer of the free software movement, having launched the operating system GNU in 1984. The GNU/Linux system is used on tens of millions of computers today.

Dr. Stallman invented the technique known as "copyleft", which makes code or text free, and requires all subsequent works that incorporate part of it to be in the same way. He is the main author of the GNU General Public License, which implements copyleft, and is the principle license for free software.

A Harvard and MIT graduate, Dr. Stallman worked at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT from 1971 to 1984. In 1983, Dr. Stallman announced the project to develop the GNU operating system and he has been the project’s leader since then. In 1985, he started the Free Software Foundation, of which he is president as a full-time volunteer.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of free and open-source software. In fact, Dr. Stallman’s movement can be described as one of the most successful social movements to emerge in the past quarter of a century. We would not be using most of the internet services we enjoy today, without the software code provided by people who believed in this movement.

Dr. Stallman has been recognized with numerous distinctions for his work. He received the ACM Grace Hopper Award in 1991 for the development of the first Emacs editor in the 1970s, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award in 1998 along with Linus Torvalds; and several degrees honoris causa. In 2002, he was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering, and in 2003, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Last year, he was inducted into to the Internet Hall of Fame.

Dr. Stallman’s Convocation address will not be life-streamed. This is because the streaming system we are using requires spectators to run a non-free Java script program. To lead people to run that would be contrary to his principles. We will post a recording at

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Dr. Richard Stallman, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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