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He was not a professor. He quit his job at MIT (as some sort of staff researcher/programmer) in 1984 to start the GNU project. He was an unpaid visiting scientist and had an office, although he was rarely in it (he spends a lot of time traveling). He did not have any institutional power beyond his participation as a rando on the mailing lists.

You're right, he was a "visiting scientist", whatever that means.

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