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Knight, Dr. John C.


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John Knight had a long, influential career in safety-critical computer systems.

John Knight, a computer science academic and practitioner who received the 2008 ACM Special Interest Group on Software Engineering (SIGSOFT) Distinguished Service Award, passed away on Feb. 23, at the age of 69.

Credit: The Daily Progress

John Charles Knight, 69, of Charlottesville, passed away on Thursday, February 23, 2017, after a courageous battle with hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Knight was born in Bath, England in 1947. He graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons. Mathematics) from Imperial College of Science and Technology in 1969 and earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1973.

Knight had a long and highly influential career in safety-critical computer systems, especially in the automotive and aerospace fields. He spent seven years working at NASA before joining the University of Virginia (U.VA) in 1981. He was also a dedicated teacher, pioneering studio labs in the U.VA Computer Science department in the form of his popular Software Engineering class, in which the labs developed various fun capabilities for robots, such as soccer and dancing. He also oriented the Discrete Math course to better demonstrate how the theoretical concepts tie into computer systems design principles.

Knight won the 2006 IEEE Computer Society Harlan D. Mills award “for encouraging software researchers to focus on practical results as well as theory, and for critically analyzing their assumptions and evaluating their research claims” – this was a huge honor. Knight was the recipient of the 2008 ACM's Special Interest Group on Software Engineering (SIGSOFT) Distinguished Service award. In 2012, Knight’s book, Fundamentals of Dependable Computing for Software Engineers, was published. Knight founded Dependable Computing in 2009, specializing in applied research, advanced development and technology transfer in safety- and security-critical application domains. He made extraordinary and widely recognized research contributions and was a recognized leader in the field of software engineering for safety-critical systems.

Knight’s technical accomplishments were many but were dwarfed by the size of his heart. He could never pass a person in need without reaching out. His family and friends were blessed by his deep love for them, and he enriched the lives of everyone he met. John fought incredibly hard not to leave us. Our deepest thanks to Dr. Borna Mehrad and Dr. Hannah Mannem and the U.VA Lung Transplant team who fought just as hard to keep him with us.

Knight is loved and missed by his wife, Virginia Knight; son, Richard of Richmond, VA; daughters, Abigail (Abby) of Santa Barbara, CA, and Katherine (Katie) of Gaithersburg, MD, and loving cat, Edie. Knight has family around the world who mourn his loss. He is also survived by his countless students, colleagues, and friends.

For those whose lives were touched and enriched by Knight, please join us in celebrating his life on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, at 4 p.m., Room 205 in the Mechanical Engineering building at the University of Virginia, 122 Engineer’s Way, Charlottesville, VA 22911.

In lieu of flowers or food, please donate to The Haven or the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA, two of his favorite charities.

From The Daily Progress
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