Turing awards

Written By Harini Anand
| 8 min read

Have you ever wondered what the World Wide Web and Fortran have in common? Other than being pioneering innovations, they happen to stem from the cerebrums of tinkering individuals who also have the Turing Award in common. The ACM A. M. Turing Award is an annual prize given by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for contributions of lasting and major technical importance to computer science. It is generally recognized as the highest distinction in computer science and is colloquially known as or often referred to as the "Nobel Prize of Computing".

The award is named after Alan Turing, who was a British mathematician and is often credited as being the key founder of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. The first recipient, in 1966, was Alan Perlis, of Carnegie Mellon University. The first female recipient was Frances E. Allen of IBM in 2006. The latest recipient, in 2021, is Jack Dongarra, of the University of Tennessee.

Every Turing recipient is expected to present a Turing lecture on a topic of their choice at a forum of their choice. This highly anticipated lecture is often videotaped in its entirety and available for viewing in the ACM Digital Library. The lecture is often included in the Proceedings of the conference at which it was presented, also available in the ACM Digital Library. The video and lecture will also be uploaded to the Turing website (A.M. Turing Award), which presents a rich collection of Turing information, including citations, bibliographic material, videos, lectures, photos, and more.

ACM is The Association for Computing Machinery is a US-based international learned society for computing. It was founded in 1947 and is the world's largest scientific and educational computing society. It is a non-profit professional membership group, and their aim is to highlight the significant impact of the contributions of the Turing Laureates on computing and society, to look ahead to the future of technology and innovation, and to help inspire the next generation of computer scientists to invent and dream.

Let's look into the honorary awardees and their contributions to the field of Computer Science:

Alan Perlis - 1966

For his influence in the area of advanced computer programming techniques and compiler construction.

Maurice Wilkes - 1967

Wilkes is best known as the builder and designer of the EDSAC, the first computer with an internally stored program. Built in 1949, the EDSAC used a mercury delay line memory. He is also known as the author, with Wheeler and Gill, of a volume on "Preparation of Programs for Electronic Digital Computers" in 1951, in which program libraries were effectively introduced.

Richard Hamming - 1968

For his work on numerical methods, automatic coding systems, and error-detecting and error-correcting codes.

Marvin Masky - 1969

For his central role in creating, shaping, promoting, and advancing the field of artificial intelligence.

James Hardy Wilkinson - 1970

For his research in numerical analysis to facilitate the use of the high-speed digital computer, having received special recognition for his work in computations in linear algebra and "backward" error analysis.

John McMarthy - 1971

McCarthy's lecture "The Present State of Research on Artificial Intelligence" is a topic that covers the area in which he has achieved considerable recognition for his work.

Edgser W Dijkstra - 1972

Edsger Dijkstra was a principal contributor in the late 1950s to the development of the ALGOL, a high level programming language which has become a model of clarity and mathematical rigor. He is one of the principal proponents of the science and art of programming languages in general, and has greatly contributed to our understanding of their structure, representation, and implementation. His fifteen years of publications extend from theoretical articles on graph theory to basic manuals, expository texts, and philosophical contemplations in the field of programming languages.

Charles Bachman - 1973

For his outstanding contributions to database technology.

Donald Knuth - 1974

For his major contributions to the analysis of algorithms and the design of programming languages, and in particular for his contributions to "The Art of Computer Programming" through his well-known books in a continuous series by this title.

Herbert A Simon - 1975 In joint scientific efforts extending over twenty years, initially in collaboration with J. C. Shaw at the RAND Corporation, and subsequently with numerous faculty and student colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University, they have made basic contributions to artificial intelligence, the psychology of human cognition, and list processing.

Michael O Rabin & Dana Scott - 1976 For their joint paper "Finite Automata and Their Decision Problem", which introduced the idea of nondeterministic machines, which has proved to be an enormously valuable concept. Their (Scott & Rabin) classic paper has been a continuous source of inspiration for subsequent work in this field.

John Backus - 1977 For profound, influential, and lasting contributions to the design of practical high-level programming systems, notably through his work on FORTRAN, and for seminal publication of formal procedures for the specification of programming languages.

Robert W Floyd - 1978 For having a clear influence on methodologies for the creation of efficient and reliable software, and for helping to found the following important subfields of computer science: the theory of parsing, the semantics of programming languages, automatic program verification, automatic program synthesis, and analysis of algorithms.

Kenneth E Iverson - 1979 For his pioneering effort in programming languages and mathematical notation resulting in what the computing field now knows as APL, for his contributions to the implementation of interactive systems, to educational uses of APL, and to programming language theory and practice.

Tony Hoarse - 1980 For his fundamental contributions to the definition and design of programming languages.

Edgar F Codd - 1981 For his fundamental and continuing contributions to the theory and practice of database management systems, esp. relational databases.

Stephen Cook - 1982 For his advancement of our understanding of the complexity of computation in a significant and profound way.

Ken Thompson & Dennis Ritchie - 1983 For their development of generic operating systems theory and specifically for the implementation of the UNIX operating system.

Niklaus Wirth - 1984 For developing a sequence of innovative computer languages, EULER, ALGOL-W, Pascal, MODULA and Oberon.

Richard M Karp - 1985 For his continuing contributions to the theory of algorithms including the development of efficient algorithms for network flow and other combinatorial optimization problems, the identification of polynomial-time computability with the intuitive notion of algorithmic efficiency, and, most notably, contributions to the theory of NP-completeness.

John Hopcroft & Robert Tarjan - 1986 For fundamental achievements in the design and analysis of algorithms and data structures

John Cocke - 1987 For significant contributions in the design and theory of compilers, the architecture of large systems and the development of reduced instruction set computers (RISC)

Ivan Sutherland - 1988 For his pioneering and visionary contributions to computer graphics, starting with Sketchpad, and continuing after.

William Kahan - 1989 For his fundamental contributions to numerical analysis. One of the foremost experts on floating-point computations. Kahan has dedicated himself to "making the world safe for numerical computations.

Fernando J Corbato - 1990 For his pioneering work organizing the concepts and leading the development of the general-purpose, large-scale, time-sharing and resource-sharing computer systems, CTSS and Multics.

Robin Milner - 1991 For three distinct and complete achievements:

  1. LCF, the mechanization of Scott's Logic of Computable Functions, probably the first theoretically based yet practical tool for machine assisted proof construction;

  2. ML, the first language to include polymorphic type inference together with a type-safe exception-handling mechanism;

  3. CCS, a general theory of concurrency. In addition, he formulated and strongly advanced full abstraction, the study of the relationship between operational and denotational semantics.

Butler Lampson - 1992

For contributions to the development of distributed, personal computing environments and the technology for their implementation: workstations, networks, operating systems, programming systems, displays, security and document publishing.

Juris Hartmanis & Richard E Stearns - 1993

In recognition of their seminal paper which established the foundations for the field of computational complexity theory.

Edward Feigenbaum & Raj Reddy - 1994

For pioneering the design and construction of large scale artificial intelligence systems, demonstrating the practical importance and potential commercial impact of artificial intelligence technology.

Manuel Blum - 1995

In recognition of his contributions to the foundations of computational complexity theory and its application to cryptography and program checking.

Amir Pneuli - 1996

For seminal work introducing temporal logic into computing science and for outstanding contributions to program and systems verification.

Douglas Engelbart - 1997

For an inspiring vision of the future of interactive computing and the invention of key technologies to help realize this vision.

Jim Gray - 1998

For seminal contributions to database and transaction processing research and technical leadership in system implementation.

Fred Brooks - 1999

For landmark contributions to computer architecture, operating systems, and software engineering.

Andrew Yao - 2000

In recognition of his fundamental contributions to the theory of computation, including the complexity-based theory of pseudorandom number generation, cryptography, and communication complexity.

Ole-Johan Dahl & Kristen Nygaard - 2001

For ideas fundamental to the emergence of object-oriented programming, through their design of the programming languages Simula I and Simula 67.

Ron Rivest & Adi Shamir & Leonard Adleman - 2002

For their ingenious contribution for making public-key cryptography useful in practice.

Alan Kay 2003

For pioneering many of the ideas at the root of contemporary object-oriented programming languages, leading the team that developed Smalltalk, and for fundamental contributions to personal computing.

Vint Cerf & Bob Kahn - 2004

For pioneering work on internetworking, including the design and implementation of the Internet's basic communications protocols, TCP/IP, and for inspired leadership in networking.

Peter Naur - 2005

For fundamental contributions to programming language design and the definition of ALGOL 60, to compiler design, and to the art and practice of computer programming.

Frances Allen - 2006

For pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimizing compilers and automatic parallel execution.

Edmund M Clarke & Allen Emerson & Joseph Sifakis - 2007

For their roles in developing model checking into a highly effective verification technology, widely adopted in the hardware and software industries.

Barbara Liskov - 2008

For contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing.

Charles P Thacker - 2009 For his pioneering design and realization of the Xerox Alto, the first modern personal computer, and in addition for his contributions to the Ethernet and the Tablet PC.

Leslie Valiant - 2010

For transformative contributions to the theory of computation, including the theory of probably approximately correct (PAC) learning, the complexity of enumeration and of algebraic computation, and the theory of parallel and distributed computing.

Judea Pearl - 2011

For fundamental contributions to artificial intelligence through the development of a calculus for probabilistic and causal reasoning.

Silvio Micali & Shafi Goldwasser - 2012

For transformative work that laid the complexity-theoretic foundations for the science of cryptography and in the process pioneered new methods for efficient verification of mathematical proofs in complexity theory.

Leslie Lamport - 2013

For fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of distributed and concurrent systems, notably the invention of concepts such as causality and logical clocks, safety and liveness, replicated state machines, and sequential consistency.

Micheal Stonebraker - 2014

For fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices underlying modern database systems.

Whitfield Diffie & Martin Hellman - 2015

For fundamental contributions to modern cryptography. Diffie and Hellman's groundbreaking 1976 paper, "New Directions in Cryptography", introduced the ideas of public-key cryptography and digital signatures, which are the foundation for most regularly-used security protocols on the Internet today.

Tim Berners-Lee - 2016

For inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the Web to scale.

John Leroy Hennessy & David Patterson - 2017

For pioneering a systematic, quantitative approach to the design and evaluation of computer architectures with enduring impact on the microprocessor industry.

Yoshua Bengio & Geoffrey Hinton & Yann LeCun - 2018

For conceptual and engineering breakthroughs that have made deep neural networks a critical component of computing.

Edwin Catmull & Pat Hanrahan - 2019

For fundamental contributions to 3-D computer graphics, and the revolutionary impact of these techniques on computer-generated imagery (CGI) in filmmaking and other applications.

Alfred Aho & Jeffrey Ullman - 2020

For fundamental algorithms and theory underlying programming language implementation and for synthesizing these results and those of others in their highly influential books, which educated generations of computer scientists.

Jack Dongarra - 2021

For pioneering contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries that enabled high performance computational software to keep pace with exponential hardware improvements for over four decades