This is an archived page and is no longer updated.
Please visit our current pages at

Peter Bernard Ladkin's Potted Biography

Peter Bernard Ladkin is Professor of Computer Networks and Distributed Systems at the University of Bielefeld in Germany. He specializes in safety and failure analysis of complex heterogeneous systems, mostly in public transportation, primarily air and rail, but also infrastructure such as power generation. He has worked in the past on constraint satisfaction problems and temporal reasoning, and performed combinatorial analysis of message-passing in concurrent systems. He contributed for many years regularly to the ACM's on-line Forum on Risks to the Public in Computing and Related Systems (the Risks Forum). He blogs at

Peter is the originator of Why-Because Analysis (WBA) for the causal analysis of untoward incidents and accidents, as well as Ontological Hazard Analysis (OHA) for relatively complete hazard analysis and traceability of safety requirements through refinement in system development.

Most recently (2010 onwards) Peter has engaged in standardisation activities, being a member of the German national standards committee DKE GK 914 for functional safety of E/E/PE systems, and its associated "Safe SW" working group, AK 914.0.3. He chairs the DKE committee AK 353.0.5 for hazard analysis of recharging of electric road vehicles and is involved in the formation of a committee for developing a safety standard for air traffic control and management software, associated with DIN NA131-05-02AA. He is on the project team developing an international standard with the IEC for Root Cause Failure Analysis, and has been appointed to the IEC Maintenance Teams for IEC 61508, the E/E/PE functional safety standard.

Peter's academic training is in mathematics, logic (philosophical and mathematical) and philosophy. He holds a B.A. (Hons) in Maths and Philosophy from Oxford University (1973), then went on to study in California and holds an M.A. in Mathematics (1980) and Ph.D. in Logic and the Methodology of Science (Tarski's Group, Ph.D. in 1987), both from the University of California at Berkeley. He has an Erdös number of 3 (via Tarski and Maddux).

During the 1980's, he worked at SRI International's Computer Science Lab (1984-5) and the Kestrel Institute (1985-9), as well as consulting (1989-91) and teaching at various universities, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining the Bielefeld faculty in 1995, he was Konrad Zuse Visiting Professor at the University of Hamburg (1991), a visiting researcher at IBM's Almaden Research Center (1992) as well as at the Universities of Berne and Stirling (1992-4), and a visiting professor at the Université de Nancy and at INRIA Lorraine (1994). He was Visiting Professor at the INRS Télécommunications Lab of the Université de Québec in Montréal (1995-9), and at Middlesex University in London (1996-2002). His collaborators and coauthors in informatics have included Henry Kautz of the University of Washington, Leslie Lamport of Microsoft Corporation, Stefan Leue of the University of Constance, Roger Maddux of Iowa State University, Alexander Reinefeld of the Humboldt University Berlin, Barbara Simons, formerly of IBM Almaden Research Center and Santa Teresa Labs, and Harold Thimbleby of the University of Swansea. Currently he collaborates with a number of engineers and informaticians working in system safety.

Peter believes that research in engineering necessitates technology transfer, for the measure of success in engineering is in the application, and he founded the company Causalis Limited in 1998 for that purpose.

Peter is a British citizen and was a US Permanent Resident Alien (yes, it says that on the permit) before returning to Europe after 18 golden years in California. He holds a US Private Pilot certificate with Instrument Rating, with 750+ hours total time, owned a Piper Archer II for nearly a decade, and now co-owns a Morane. He speaks and writes English, German and French after a fashion, and is not averse to misunderstanding Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch when opportunity presents. He plays a fair amount of Celtic, English and American folk music on fiddle, flute and tin whistle, and co-organises the Irish Session Bielefeld which also meets for a Slow Session regularly at his house. Besides that, he likes good wine, healthy food, outdoor activities, wildflowers, birds, small furry wild animals, early music and modern music, and reading poetry. He owns six bicycles, including a Flyer Pedelec, a Nöll recumbent (on display October 2011 - February 2012 in the Historical Museum in Bielefeld), and a folding R&M Frog for business travel, and doesn't use a car.

Back to Peter Ladkin's Home Page