Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Waltham’s Barbara Liskov

In the world of computers and technology, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are revered names…

Computer geeks…

They’re a unique breed and they’re responsible for the world as we know it today…

But here’s another name to add to that illustrious list – Barbara Liskov – creator of influential innovations!

I know… WHO???

Barbara Liskov…Waltham woman extraordinaire…MIT professor…

first woman to receive a PhD in computer science...

newly crowned recipient of the Turing Award...often referred to as the “Nobel Prize in Computing!”

The $250,000 Turing Award is given  annually by the Association for Computing Machinery and, ” is named for British mathematician Alan M. Turing, who helped the Allies crack the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War Two.”

Liskov, cited for her “foundational innovations to designing and building the pervasive computer system designs that power daily life,” heads the Programming Methodology Group in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.

Her pioneering work in software  has been the basis of every  programming language since 1975.

“Computer science stands squarely at the center of MIT’s identity, and Institute Professor Barbara Liskov’s unparalleled contributions to the field represent an MIT ideal: groundbreaking research with profound benefits for humankind. We take enormous pride that she has received the Turing Award,” said MIT President Susan Hockfield. “Barbara Liskov pioneered some of the most important advances in fundamental computer science,” said Provost L. Rafael Reif. “Her exceptional achievements have leapt from the halls of academia to transform daily life around the world. Every time you exchange e-mail with a friend, check your bank statement online or run a Google search, you are riding the momentum of her research.” –  MIT News

“I didn’t have a plan for where I was going;  instead I reacted to obstacles and opportunities.  I believe that some of this was due to being a woman. When I was young, it was uncommon for women to think about having a career.  The effect on me was that I just focused on doing work that was interesting but expected to stop working when I had a family. I got into research in software systems and I realized that I was really committed to my work and would not give it up. Later when my husband and I had a family, I continued to work full time.”  – Barbara Liskov on EngineerGirl.com

barbara-liskovphoto-by-donna-coveney
Inspiration I believe that I had a great deal of support from both my parents.  This support took the form of encouragement for excelling academically, including excelling in math and science.  I was never told that “certain things shouldn’t be done by women.” I  think this “ok” enabled me to follow my interest in math and science rather than settling on a more conventional direction.

When asked in a 2005 interview with Dejan S. Milojicic, Dr. Liskov commented on her advice to young researchers, “… avoid incremental work. You should be aware of what others have done and take advantage of it. But rather than thinking of small ways to improve it, try to think of how to solve the problem differently, or how to apply the technique to a different area, or how to abstract from what has been done to come up with something that’s broadly applicable.”

The prize money associated with the ... Google ...Turing Award is from Google and Intel.

"Google is delighted to help recognize Professor Liskov for her
research contributions in the areas of data abstraction, modular
architectures, and distributed computing fundamentals," said Alfred
Spector, Vice President of Research and Special Initiatives at Google
Inc. "We are proud to be a sponsor of the ACM Turing Award to
recognize and encourage the research that is essential not only to
computer science, but to all the fields that depend on its continued
advancement."   

Barbara Liskov Wins Turing Award/MIT News 



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