Institute Professor Wins Turing Award
Every time you exchange e-mail with a friend, check your bank statement online, or run a Google search, you are benefiting from MIT Institute Professor Barbara Liskov’s research. Her pioneering contributions to software design earned Liskov the 2008 Turing Award, one of the highest honors in science and engineering.
Liskov is only the second woman to receive the prize, which carries a $250,000 purse and is often described as the “Nobel Prize of computing.” The Association for Computing Machinery, which awards the honor each year, credited her with “foundational innovations” in the field of computer science and lauded her for helping make software more reliable, consistent, and resistant to errors and hacking.
Liskov’s early innovations underlie every important programming language since 1975, including Ada, C++, Java, and C#. She not only invented data abstraction, a valuable technique that helps programmers focus on conceptual goals instead of the low-level complexities of code, but was a leader in demonstrating how it could be used to make software easier to construct, modify, and maintain. Many of these ideas were derived from her experience at the defense contractor Mitre in building the Venus operating system, a small, interactive time-sharing system.
As one of the first U.S. women to receive a PhD in computer science (from Stanford, in 1968), Liskov has watched from a front-row seat as computers reshaped society. Computer science is on considerably firmer footing now than it was back then, she says, but there’s still a great deal of work that remains to be done.
“When I started, most of the field was unexplored and there were obvious problems everywhere–lots of low-hanging fruit, but also very fundamental issues that were poorly understood and very confusing,” she says. “There are still many problems to work on, but now this work happens in the context of all that has gone before.”
Liskov heads the Programming Methodology Group in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Institute where she has conducted research since 1972. Last year she was named an Institute Professor, the highest honor that can be granted to an MIT faculty member.
Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build
“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”
ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it
The narrative around cheating students doesn’t tell the whole story. Meet the teachers who think generative AI could actually make learning better.
Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives
The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.
Learning to code isn’t enough
Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.