Relational Database Expert Witness
qualifications of Philip Greenspun, updated March 2012
This document summarizes my qualifications to be an expert witness in
lawsuits involving relational database management systems, such as
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999. Bachelor's and Master's
degrees from MIT as well.
My Ph.D. thesis was on the topic of using a relational database
management system (RDBMS) to support Internet applications such as
I have taught all of the core Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science courses at MIT. Designed and wrote the textbook for MIT Course
6.171, Software Engineering for Internet Applications (full text online; published in hardcopy by MIT
Press). This is a database programming course in disguise and was very
likely an MIT undergraduate's first encounter with the RDBMS and the
SQL programming language (so I also wrote an SQL
I am the author of some additional computer science textbooks,
including Database Backed Web Sites (Macmillan).
Database Design and Programming Experience
I started my first full-time programming job at the age of 14 in 1978
at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, building a non-relational
database management system for scientific data being streamed back
from the Pioneer Venus orbiter.
I built my first Oracle application in 1994 for Boston Children's
Hospital. This was the world's first Web-based electronic medical
record system, enabling doctors and nurses to review clinical data
from a standard Web browser.
In 1995, I moved to Manhattan to supervise the construction of Hearst
Corporation's Internet infrastructure. This required selecting an
RDBMS, hiring Unix system and RDBMS administrators, developing data
models for dozens of Internet applications, and writing SQL code
embedded in Web page scripts.
Upon moving back to Boston, I refocused my energies on photo.net, an online community for
photographers. The software behind the site, which I released as a
free and open source toolkit to help other programmers building
similar systems, turned out to be used by thousands of Web publishers
worldwide. I founded, funded, and managed a support and service
business for this software that grew to 80 programmers and $20 million
in annual revenue. I supervised the development of at least 200
database-backed Internet applications in the late 1990s and early
I continue as an active developer, consultant, design reviewer, and
code reviewer of RDBMS-based applications, primarily Web services.
Specific Database Expert Witness Experience
I served in 2009 as an expert witness for an enterprise software
vendor defending a $250 million claim by a relational database
management system vendor (contract dispute), testifying in Delaware
Chancery Court (video). I
have served as an expert in a case involving a massively parallel
relational database management system patent. I have compared database
schemas in software copyright and trade secret cases (see this article on
the Abstraction-Filtration-Comparison method).
For more information on my testifying experience and references, see
my main software expert witness