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Place of birth

Dahl was born in Mandal, a little town on the south coast of Norway, where most of the economic and cultural activities were centred around the sea and ships.


Ole-Johan Dahl family

Dahl young His father and male relatives on both sides were captains with long traditions going back to the sailing vessels which traveled all over the world. Dahl was the first child in his family and his father wanted to make a real seaman out of him from a very early age. However, his expectations and hopes for his son were far from fulfilled. Dahl was a quiet boy, who enjoyed playing the piano and reading books about mathematics and general knowledge but was less interested in sports and athletics. So his father was rather disappointed and frustrated.

Dahl had a brother and a sister nine and fourteen years younger than him respectively. His mother was an intelligent woman but with little formal education who stayed at home as a housewife and mother throughout her life. She played the piano a bit but concentrated on short, popular pieces. Likewise, his father played the violin a bit, and sometimes his parents played short popular pieces of music together. Neither of his parents nor his sister and brother had a university education or intellectual interests. In this respect Dahl was sort of an 'ugly duckling' - not fitting in with the cultural and intellectual standards of his family.


Dahl playmates

Dahl in snow When he was seven years old, his family left Mandal and settled down in Drammen, a little town to the south of Oslo. He had some difficulties here with his southern Norwegian dialect as the other children had problems understanding him. In fact, all his life he was not good at articulating distinctly and was always sensitive to people not understanding his utterances. However, he had three good playmates with whom he kept in contact throughout his life.

One of them played the violin and they often made music together. They all pursued an academic career. Although Dahl was no sportsman, they all went skiing and hiking together, but one of his friends later lamented that it was impossible to persuade him to walk up hills because he could not understand why he should walk up and down the hill when it was possible to walk around it.


School years

Dahl in school uniform He was clever at school, especially in mathematics. At high school he had to help the teacher explain mathematical problems to his fellow pupils and from then on was nicknamed 'the professor'. His intellectual and musical talents were evident from a very early age. When he was six years old, he wrote his own diary with almost no grammatical errors. At the same age, walking with his mother, he asked her to keep quiet because he was playing chess with himself in his head. He was 3 years old when he heard classical music for the first time and was captivated by it.

When he was thirteen years old, his elder cousin was shot dead by the Nazis and the whole family had to flee to Sweden. Instead of starting in the 7th class of elementary school, he missed out this school year and started directly at high school after having taken the entrance examination as an external candidate (with very good marks).

In his youth it was obvious to himself and others that he was very talented both musically and intellectually, especially with regard to mathematics. His interest and ability in piano playing was exceptional. He was, however, very conscious of the fact that he would never make music his profession. It was very important for him to deal with music in a personal and private way with no strings attached, and he was certain that if music became his professional career, it would lose its flavor and importance in his life. Therefore, in the light of his outstanding intellectual talents and engagements, it was very obvious that he had to choose an academic career, with mathematics as the main subject.

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[From Object-Orientation to Formal Methods: Essays in Memory of Ole-Johan Dahl, Olaf Owe, Stein Krogdahl and Tom Lyche (eds.), Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 2635, 2004.]
[Ole-Johan Dahl. (2007, March 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:27, March 19, 2007, from ]
[Virtual Exhibition. In People Behind Informatics. Retrieved 20:03, March 19, 2007, from ]
[Bertrand Meyer, In memory of Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard. In Journal of Object Technology, vol. 1, no. 4, September-October 2002.]
[Ole-Johan's own homepage.]
[The department's page of tribute .]
[ACM press release about the Turing award .]
[Information about the von Neumann Medal.]
[A Norwegian newspaper's article.]
Editors: Olaf Owe, Ioana Prisacariu, the administration at Department of Informatics,
Document created: 07.05.2007

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