Watts Humphrey (M.S. PHYS '50)

The Father of Software Quality

Known as the father of software quality, Watts Humphrey’s (M.S. PHYS ’50) innovations are responsible for much of the technology we take for granted.

Airplanes stay in the air and bank statements are accurately updated thanks to the software quality models Humphrey developed. His standards help software developers predictably create efficient and error-free software, and his innovations have become hallmarks of contemporary computer use. For example, while at IBM he developed the first software license and played a central role in making the company’s software work.  

His work was met with prestigious recognition, including the 2003 National Medal of Technology, presented at the White House by President George W. Bush, and fellowships at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers as well as the Association for Computing Machinery.

For all of his accomplishments, Humphrey remained in lifelong awe of his IIT professors—those such as George Cohn. “He was almost a magician, the way his mind worked,” he recalled.

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