PyDev of the Week: Pierre Denis

PyDev of the Week: Pierre Denis

This week we welcome Pierre Denis as our PyDev of the Week! Pierre is the creator of Lea, a probabilistic programming package in Python. He can be found on LinkedIn where you can see his CV and learn more about some of the things he is up to. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Pierre better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):


I’ve a Master in Computer Science from UCL Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, where I reside. I’m working since 20 years as software engineer in [Spacebel](, a company developing systems for Space. Basically, I like everything creative and elegant. Beside arts, music, literature, I ‘m looking for this in physics, algorithmic, GUI and mathematics. I love programming, especially in Python. So far, I have initiated three open-source Python projects: UFOPAX (textual virtual universe), Unum (quantities with unit consistency) and Lea (probabilistic programming). For these developments, I tend to be perfectionist and consequently slow: I’m the kind of guy that re-write the same program ten times, just for the sake of inner beauty!


Beside programming, I’m doing research in number theory (twin primes conjecture). Also, I’m writing short stories in French, my mother tongue, with some reference to the ‘Pataphysics of Alfred Jarry and a lot of nonsense. Incidentally and fortunately, programs can be good for producing nonsense, as I showed in my bullshit generator!


Why did you start using Python?


One day, a colleague showed me very interesting things he made with that language, completely unknown for me. It was Python 1.5, in 1999! At that time, I was much in favor of statically-typed languages (C++, Java, Ada, …). Intrigued, I read “Whetting your appetite” of G. van Rossum, then I swallowed the wonderful “Learning Python” book of M. Lutz and D. Asher. I was quickly conquered by the clarity, the conciseness, the beauty of the language. So, I started Python basically because it was so appealing: having the simplicity of an interpreted language with built-in containers, exceptions, OO, operator overloading, and many, many more. I became soon a zealous advocate of Python in my company.


What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?


Well, I’ve practiced Pascal, Ada, C, C++, Smalltalk, Java, Prolog, Scala and a few others. Python is my favorite one, by far. Now, if I had to award a silver medal, this would be Scala. Actually, my programming experience with Scala changed a bit the way I program in Python: I smoothly shifted to a more functional style, in particular, preferring immutable objects to mutable ones. Beside this choice, I’ve to mention that C, Smalltalk and Prolog have been very influential for me.


Thanks for doing the interview!

from The Mouse Vs. The Python


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