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Carl Adam Petri

Carl Adam Petri

German mathematician
Carl Adam Petri
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German mathematician
Was Mathematician Computer scientist Engineer Educator
From Germany
Type Academia Engineering Mathematics Technology Science
Gender male
Birth 12 July 1926, Leipzig, Leipzig District, German Democratic Republic
Death 2 July 2010, Siegburg, Rhein-Sieg District, Cologne Government Region, North Rhine-Westphalia (aged 84 years)
Star sign CancerCancer
The details


Carl Adam Petri (12 July 1926 – 2 July 2010) was a German mathematician and computer scientist. He was born in Leipzig.

Life and work

Petri created his major scientific contribution, the concept of the Petri net, in 1939 at the age of 13, for the purpose of describing chemical processes. In 1941 his father told him about Konrad Zuse's work on computing machines and Carl Adam started building his own analog computer.

After earning his Abitur at the Thomasschule he was in 1944 drafted into the Wehrmacht and eventually went into British captivity.

Petri started studying mathematics at the Technischen Hochschule Hannover (today, the University of Hanover) in 1950. He documented the Petri net in 1962 as part of his dissertation, Kommunikation mit Automaten (communication with automata). He worked from 1959 until 1962 at the University of Bonn and received his PhD degree in 1962 from the Darmstadt University of Technology.

Petri's work significantly advanced the fields of parallel computing and distributed computing, and it helped define the modern studies of complex systems and workflow management systems. His contributions have been in the broader area of network theory which includes coordination models and theories of interaction, and eventually led to the formal study of software connectors.

In 1988 he became honorary professor of the University of Hamburg. Petri officially retired in 1991. He was a member of the Academia Europaea.


Petri was honored with the following awards:

  • 1993: Konrad Zuse Medal of the Gesellschaft für Informatik.
  • 1996: Werner von Siemens Ring, a prestigious German award in technical sciences.
  • 2003: honored by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands with the title Commander in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.
  • 2007: honored for his lifetime achievements by the "Academy of Transdisciplinary Learning and Advanced Studies (ATLAS)" with a "Academy Gold Medal of Honor".
  • 2008: Computer Pioneer Award from the IEEE.
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