Michael P. Barnett
March 24, 1929 - March 13, 2012
Last place of employment:
Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
Princeton, New Jersey, US
Michael P. Barnett died peacefully at Princeton Medical Center on March 13, 2012. He was 82. Mr. Barnett was born in London England in 1929. He attended Kings College, London where he received a BSc in Chemistry in 1948 and a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry in 1952 that resulted in the discovery of recurrence formulas known as the Barnett-Coulson expansion. This research involved the use, for the first time in the UK of the IBM 650 computer for solving complex mathematical calculations.
Mr. Barnett was a participant at the historic 1951 Shelter Island Conference on Quantum Mechanics in Valence Theory. His military service was as a senior fellow at the Royal Radar Establishment where he worked on theoretical solid state physics.
On completion of his service, he joined IBM UK where he directed the computer center and participated in numerous projects such as calculating DNA structures and simulations of hydrology projects on the river Nile for planning where to place dams. In 1957 he was invited to pursue post-doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin and in 1958 became an Associate Professor of Physics at MIT.
While at MIT he was the director of the Cooperative Computer Laboratory and he developed a way to typeset computed mathematical formulae directly. He also did some initial work on word processing. In 1963 he went back to England as part of the "Returned Brain Drain" as Reader of Information Processing at the University of London. Believing that academic research should lead to industrial applications, in 1964 he joined the newly formed Graphic Systems Division of RCA in Princeton NJ to create software for commercial typesetting. Barnett designed the algorithmic markup language PAGE-1 to express complicated formats in full page composition. This was used for a wide range of typeset products that included, over the years, the Social Sciences Index of the H. W. Wilson Company and several other publications.
In 1975 he joined the faculty of the Columbia School of Library service where he introduced library automation courses. In 1977, Barnett moved to the Department of Computer and Information Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1996. While at CUNY, he directed a major NSF funded project to develop computer generated printed matter for undergraduate teaching.
He wrote seven books, several with his teenage children aimed at the home market. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Barbara; his daughter Gabrielle; his son Simon; his daughter-in-law Melissa Roper-Barnett; predeceased by his son Graham. He leaves six grandchildren.
Michael was a member of the Princeton Traffic Safety committee. He was active until shortly before his death, enjoying long walks, swimming, listening to classical music, and telling stories. Both friends and strangers comment on his enormous and invariably upbeat wit.
Joseph F. Capitani
Department of Chemistry Manhattan College