Richard Stallman


  • B.A. in Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1970–1974
  • Honorary doctorates from:
    • University of Glasgow (2001),
    • Vrije Universiteit Brussels (2003),
    • Universidad Nacional de Salta (2004),
    • Universidad de Los Angeles de Chimbote (2007),
    • and University of Pavia (2007)


Listening to music, reading, protesting, eating, travel, cooking, sharing affection


Richard is a software developer and software freedom activist. In 1983, he announced the project to develop the GNU operating system, a UNIX-like operating system meant to be entirely free software, and he has been the project’s leader ever since. With that announcement, Richard also launched the Free Software Movement. In October 1985, he started the Free Software Foundation. The GNU/Linux system, a variant of GNU that also uses the kernel Linux developed by Linus Torvalds, is used in tens or hundreds of millions of computers and is now preinstalled in computers available in retail stores. However, the distributors of these systems often disregard the ideas of freedom that make free software important. That is why, since the mid-1990s, Richard has spent most of his time in political advocacy for free software and the ethical ideas of the movement; he also campaigns against both software patents and dangerous extension of copyright laws. Before that, Richard developed a number of widely used software components of the GNU system, including the original Emacs, the GNU Compiler Collection, the GNU symbolic debugger (gdb), GNU Emacs, and various other programs for the GNU operating system. Richard also pioneered the concept of copyleft and is the main author of the GNU General Public License, the most widely used free software license.

Richard gives speeches frequently about free software and related topics. In 1999, he called for the development of a free online encyclopedia by inviting the public to contribute articles. In Venezuela, he has promoted the adoption of free software in the state’s oil company (PDVSA), in municipal government, and in the nation’s military. Richard is on the Advisory Council of TeleSUR, the television station launched by Venezuela and other countries to counter the biased news of the corporate stations.

During his college years, he also worked as a staff hacker at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, learning operating system development by doing it. He wrote the first extensible Emacs text editor there in 1975. He also developed the AI technique of dependency-directed backtracking, also known as truth maintenance. In January 1984, he resigned from MIT to start the GNU project.