Acta Informatica

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 593–624

A calculus of refinements for program derivations


  • R. J. R. Back
    • Department of Computer ScienceAbo Akademi

DOI: 10.1007/BF00291051

Cite this article as:
Back, R.J.R. Acta Informatica (1988) 25: 593. doi:10.1007/BF00291051


A calculus of program refinements is described, to be used as a tool for the step-by-step derivation of correct programs. A derivation step is considered correct if the new program preserves the total correctness of the old program. This requirement is expressed as a relation of (correct) refinement between nondeterministic program statements. The properties of this relation are studied in detail. The usual sequential statement constructors are shown to be monotone with respect to this relation and it is shown how refinement between statements can be reduced to a proof of total correctness of the refining statement. A special emphasis is put on the correctness of replacement steps, where some component of a program is replaced by another component. A method by which assertions can be added to statements to justify replacements in specific contexts is developed. The paper extends the weakest precondition technique of Dijkstra to proving correctness of larger program derivation steps, thus providing a unified framework for the axiomatic, the stepwise refinement and the transformational approach to program construction and verification.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988