Knowing the Top Contributors to Computer Science…

I wrote about “Who are the Role Models of Computer Science & IT Students?” some time ago. I also stated why it is important for learners to know the top contributors in computer science. A good starting point is to know about the Turing Award, the winners of the Turning Award, and their contributions.

You can read about the Turing Award, the winners and their contributions from the website of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). The Turing Award is considered to be the highest award for contributions to computer science. This award has been named in the honor of Alan M Turing, one of the giants of computer science. Many think that the Turing Award is as prestigious as the Nobel Prize!

The 2008 Turing Award went to H Barbara Liskov for contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing. She is the second woman to bag this award. The first woman to win this award was Frances Allen in the year 2006 for her contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques.

The award winner, apart from receiving a prize and citation, also delivers a Turing Award lecture. I wish each student of computer science reads these Turing Award lectures. Many of them are outstanding!

Alan J Perlis was the first to win the Turing Award in 1966 for his influence in the area of advanced programming techniques and compiler construction. His Turing Award paper was on “The Synthesis of Algorithms”. But many of you, I am sure, would enjoy his delightful “Epigrams of Programming”. As a sampler, consider the following epigrams…

Whenever two programmers meet to criticize their programs, both are silent.

We will never run out of things to program as long as there is a single program around.

If you have a procedure with 10 parameters, you probably missed some.

Every program has (at least) two purposes: the one for which it was written and another for which it wasn’t.


I urge you to read these epigrams, and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did!

Two of the Turing Award papers that I enjoyed are The Humble Programmer by Edsger Dijkstra, and Introductions to Computing Should Be Childs Play by Alan Kay. Look at these swinging titles. The content is even better! The Turing Award site on ACM is a treasure trove!

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