Mureil Cornwell

Mureil Cornwell

Modified & Updated: 28 Jan 2024


Richard Stallman, commonly known as RMS, is a prominent figure in the world of technology and an iconic advocate for software freedom. Born on March 16, 1953, in New York City, Stallman is widely recognized for his significant contributions to the development of the free software movement. He is the founder of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the GNU Project, pioneering the concept of free and open-source software.

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating life and achievements of Richard Stallman, unveiling 13 astonishing facts that highlight his passion, vision, and unwavering dedication to promoting software freedom and digital rights. From his early beginnings in programming to his pivotal role in shaping the modern open-source software landscape, Stallman’s journey is nothing short of extraordinary. So, brace yourself for an intriguing exploration into the life of one of the most influential figures in the history of computing.

Table of Contents

Richard Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF)

Richard Stallman, also known as RMS, is renowned for his role in founding the Free Software Foundation (FSF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and defending computer user freedom. With a strong belief in the importance of software freedom, Stallman’s advocacy has shaped the open-source movement and influenced countless developers worldwide.

He initiated the development of GNU Project

In 1983, Stallman launched the GNU Project, an ambitious undertaking to create a free and open-source software operating system. GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix,” emphasizing the project’s compatibility and adherence to Unix-like principles while offering more freedom to users. This initiative laid the groundwork for collaborative development and paved the way for the widely used GNU/Linux operating system.

Stallman developed the GNU General Public License (GPL)

To protect and preserve software freedom, Stallman crafted the GNU General Public License (GPL), a well-known copyleft license. The GPL ensures that users have the freedom to use, modify, and distribute software while keeping it open-source and preventing restriction on those freedoms. This license has empowered countless projects to thrive and encourages a community-driven approach to software development.

He pioneered the concept of “free software”

Stallman coined the term “free software,” referring to software that grants users the freedom to study, modify, and distribute it. He emphasized that “free” refers to freedom, not necessarily price, establishing a clear distinction between open-source and proprietary software. Stallman’s work has been instrumental in raising awareness about the importance of software freedom and inspiring a global community of developers and enthusiasts.

Stallman is an accomplished programmer and hacker

Aside from his activism, Stallman is a skilled programmer known for his contributions to various software projects. He played a significant role in the creation of Emacs, the popular extensible text editor, and GCC (GNU Compiler Collection), a crucial component of many programming language toolchains. His technical prowess has earned him respect and admiration within the software development community.

He fiercely advocates for digital rights

Stallman’s commitment to digital rights extends beyond software freedom. He has been a vocal advocate against digital restrictions management (DRM), software patents, and proprietary formats. Stallman firmly believes in a society that respects individuals’ privacy, security, and control over their digital lives, striving to protect users and preserve their freedoms in the evolving digital landscape.

Stallman is passionate about preserving users’ privacy

Drawing attention to concerns surrounding privacy, Stallman has been an advocate for encryption and protection against surveillance. He has consistently highlighted the need for individuals to have control over their personal data and to be safeguarded against invasive technologies that compromise privacy rights.

Stallman is known for his unconventional lifestyle

Stallman’s lifestyle is unique and often draws attention. He is famously known for his preference for free, open-source software and his aversion to proprietary technologies. This extends to his personal choices, including avoiding smartphones and using a minimalistic approach to technology in his daily life.

Stallman stepped down as FSF president in 2019

After facing controversy and backlash surrounding his comments on topics unrelated to software freedom, Stallman decided to step down as president of the Free Software Foundation in However, his significant contributions to the open-source movement and his impact on the software world remain undeniable.

Stallman has received several accolades for his work

Throughout his career, Stallman has been recognized for his contributions to the world of software and digital rights. He has received prestigious awards such as the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award and the EFF Pioneer Award, honoring his dedication and influence in the field.

Richard Stallman is an avid folk dancer

In addition to his passion for software and digital rights, Stallman has a lively interest in folk dancing. He has been known to participate in contra dances, a traditional form of social dance characterized by paired interactions and lively footwork.

Stallman continues to be actively involved in the free software movement

Despite his departure from the presidency of FSF, Stallman remains an influential figure in the free software movement. He continues to speak at conferences, participate in discussions, and advocate for the principles he holds dear. His dedication and unwavering commitment to software freedom make him a prominent figure in the tech world.

Stallman’s contributions have had a lasting impact on the tech industry

Richard Stallman’s pioneering work and relentless advocacy for software freedom and digital rights have had a profound and lasting impact on the technology industry. His vision of a world where knowledge and technological advancements are freely accessible and shared has inspired a generation of developers and revolutionized the way software is created and distributed.


In conclusion, Richard Stallman is truly a remarkable individual with a slew of astonishing facts surrounding his life and contributions. From his role as the founder of the free software movement to his advocacy for digital rights and privacy, Stallman has made a lasting impact on the world of technology. His fierce dedication to the principles of free software and his unwavering commitment to defending user freedom have earned him both admiration and controversy throughout the years. Whether you agree with all of his views or not, there is no denying the significant influence Stallman has had on the open-source community and the wider tech industry.


1. Who is Richard Stallman?

Richard Stallman is a renowned American software developer, programmer, and activist. He is best known as the founder of the free software movement and the GNU Project.

2. What is the free software movement?

The free software movement, initiated by Richard Stallman, advocates for the freedom of computer users to run, copy, distribute, study, modify, and improve software. It emphasizes the importance of user freedom and the principles of sharing and collaboration.

3. What is the GNU Project?

The GNU Project is an ambitious undertaking initiated by Richard Stallman aiming to develop a complete operating system composed entirely of free software. It has been a driving force in promoting the ideals of user freedom and open-source software.

4. What are some of Richard Stallman’s notable contributions?

Richard Stallman has contributed significantly to the development of the free software movement and the open-source community. He launched the GNU operating system, developed the GNU General Public License (GPL), and founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF).

5. Why is Richard Stallman controversial?

Richard Stallman’s staunch advocacy for free software and his strong opinions on various topics have often sparked controversy. His uncompromising stance on issues such as software patents and proprietary software has sometimes generated debate and disagreement in the tech community.