Research papers/Functional pearls

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Functional pearls are elegant, instructive examples of functional programming. They are supposed to be fun, and they teach important programming techniques and fundamental design principles. They traditionally appear in The Journal of Functional Programming, and at ICFP and affiliated workshops.

The history of functional pearls is covered by:

How to Write a Functional Pearl
Richard Bird. ICFP 2006.
Fifteen years of functional pearls
Richard Bird. ICFP 2006.
Strachey's functional pearl, forty years on
Mike Spivey, 2006.
On Barron and Strachey's Cartesian Product Function
Olivier Danvy and Michael Spivey, July 2007

There have been some 64 functional pearls in JFP, and some others at ICFP and the Haskell Workshop. There is also a collection of them in The Fun of Programming.

The pearls tend to concentrate on:

  • Examples of program calculation and proof
  • Neat presentations of new or old data structures
  • Interesting applications and techniques


Functional pearls online:

Linear, Bounded, Functional Pretty-Printing

S. Doaitse Sweirstra, Olaf Chitil. 2009.

Bidirectionalization for Free!
Janis Voigtländer. 2009.
Much Ado about Two: A Pearl on Parallel Prefix Computation
Janis Voigtländer. 2008.
Clowns to the Left of me, Jokers to the Right: Dissecting Data Structures
Conor McBride. 2008.
Functional Pearl: The Great Escape: Or how to jump the border without getting caught
David Herman. 2007.
Scrap Your Zippers
Michael Adams. 2007.
A type-correct, stack-safe, provably correct expression compiler in Epigram
James McKinna and Joel Wright. 2006.
Applicative Programming with Effects
Conor McBride and Ross Paterson. 2006.
Enumerating the rationals
Jeremy Gibbons, David Lester and Richard Bird. 2006.
Probabilistic functional programming in Haskell
Martin Erwig and Steve Kollmansberger. 2006.
Marble mingling
Sharon Curtis. 2006.
Strong Types for Relational Databases
Alexandra Silva, Joost Visser. 2006. (Haskell Workshop)
Backtracking, interleaving, and terminating monad transformers
Oleg Kiselyov, Chung-chieh Shan, Daniel P. Friedman, Amr Sabry. 2005.
Scrap your Nameplate
James Cheney. 2005.
Pickler Combinators
Andrew Kennedy. 2004.
Composing fractals
Mark P. Jones. 2004.
Enumerating the strings of regular languages
M. Douglas McIlroy. 2004.
Functional satisfaction
Luc Maranget. 2004. (More info).
Implicit configurations--or, type classes reflect the values of types
Oleg Kiselyov, Chung-chieh Shan. 2004. (also here)
Global variables in Haskell
John Hughes. 2004. (JFP)
I am not a number -- I am a free variable
Conor McBride, James McKinna. 2004.
Inverting the Burrows Wheeler transform
Richard Bird and Shin-Cheng Mu. 2004. (Also here).
Parsing permutation phrases
Arthur Baars, Andres Loh and S. Doaitse Swierstra. 2004.
Concurrent distinct choices
Sergio Antoy and Michael Hanus. 2004.
Functional chart parsing of context-free grammars
Peter Ljunglf. 2004.
Type-Safe Cast
Stephanie Weirich. 2004.
Pickler Combinators
Andrew J. Kennedy. 2004.
Parallel Parsing Processes
Koen Claessen. 2004.
Derivation of a logarithmic time carry lookahead addition circuit
John O'Donnell and Gudula Runger. 2004. (ACM) (JFP) (Homepage).
Producing all ideals of a forest, functionally
Jean-Christophe Fillitre and Franois Pottier. 2003.
Trouble shared is trouble halved
Richard Bird, Ralf Hinze. 2003
Formatting: a class act
Ralf Hinze. 2003.
A fresh look at binary search trees
Ralf Hinze. 2002.
The countdown problem
Graham Hutton. 2002.
Packrat parsing: simple, powerful, lazy, linear time, functional pearl
Bryan Ford. 2002.
Monads for Incremental Computing
Magnus Carlsson. 2002.
Unfolding pointer algorithms
Richard Bird. 2001.
Maximum marking problems
Richard Bird. 2001.
Weaving a web
Ralf Hinze and Johan Jeuring. 2001.
Normalization by evaluation with typed abstract syntax
Olivier Danvy, Morten Rhiger and Kristoffer H. Rose. 2001.
Do we need dependent types?
Daniel Fridlender and Mia Indrika. 2001.
Perfect trees and bit-reversal permutations
Ralf Hinze. 2000.
Combinators for breadth-first search
Michael Spivey. 2000
Breadth-First Numbering: Lessons from a Small Exercise in Algorithm Design
Chris Okasaki. 2000.
Deriving Backtracking Monad Transformers
Ralf Hinze. 2000.
Recursive subtyping revealed
Vladimir Gapeyev, Michael Y. Levin, Benjamin C. Pierce. 2000.
Composing contracts: an adventure in financial engineering
Simon Peyton Jones, Jean-Marc Eber, Julian Seward. 2000.
A poor man's concurrency monad
Koen Claessen. 1999.
Explaining binomial heaps
Ralf Hinze. 1999.
Power series, power serious
M. Douglas McIlroy. 1999.
Red-black trees in a functional setting
Chris Okasaki. 1999.
Proof-directed debugging
Robert Harper. 1999. (see also Proof-directed debugging: revisited for a first-order version).
A pointless derivation of radix sort
Jeremy Gibbons. 1999.
Monadic parsing in Haskell
Graham Hutton and Erik Meijer . 1998.
Polytypic unification
Patrik Jansson and Johan Jeuring. 1998.
Diets for fat sets
Martin Erwig. 1998.
Even higher-order functions for parsing or Why would anyone ever want to use a sixth-order function?
Chris Okasaki. 1998.
The Zipper
Gerard Huet. 1997. (See also The Haskell Wikibook).
Lazy wheel sieves and spirals of primes
Colin Runciman. 1997.
Three algorithms on Braun trees
Chris Okasaki. 1997.
The Third Homomorphism Theorem
Jeremy Gibbons. 1996.
Back to Basics: Deriving Representation Changers Functionally.
Graham Hutton, Erik Meijer. 1996.
Drawing Trees
Andrew J. Kennedy. 1996.
Deriving Tidy Drawings of Trees
Jeremy Gibbons. 1996. (See also the research report).
Efficient Sets - A Balancing Act
Stephen Adams. 1993. (Data.Set).

Potential Pearls

Unpublished pearls.

Typed Quote/AntiQuote
Ralf Hinze. Unpublished work in progress.
α-conversion is easy
Thorsten Altenkirch. Unpublished draft.


These appear not to be available online, unfortunately. If you know where they live, please link, and move into the 'online' section!

Functional Pearl: Streams and Unique Fixed Points
Ralf Hinze, ICFP 2008
Linear lambda calculus and PTIME-completeness
Harry G. Mairson. 2004.
Calculating the Sieve of Eratosthenes
Lambert Meertens. Journal of Functional Programming, 14(6):759-763, 2004. (slides)
Red-black trees with types
Stefan Kahrs. 2001. (JFP) (Code!)
On generating unique names
Lennart Augustsson, M Rittri, D Synek. 1994. (Rittri's homepage)
A Symmetric Set of Efficient List Operations.
Rob R. Hoogerwoord, 1992. (Hoogerwoord's homepage).
Finding celebrities: A lesson in functional programming
Richard Bird and Sharon Curtis. 2006. (See also).
A program to solve Sudoku
Richard Bird. 2006. (slides appear here, a Literate Haskell implementation by Graham Hutton based on this can be found here).
On tiling a chessboard
Richard Bird. 2004. (ACM)
Meertens number
Richard Bird. 1998.
On merging and selection
Richard Bird. 1997. (See also More on Merging and Selection).
On building trees with minimum height
Richard Bird. 1997. (Bib).
The Last Tail.
Richard Bird. 1993. (Bib).
Two Greedy Algorithms
Richard Bird, 1992. (Bib).
On Removing Duplicates
Richard Bird. 1991. (Bib).