Barbara Liskov Wins Turing Award

News flash: Barbara Liskov Wins Turing Award. The full citation:

Barbara Liskov has led important developments in computing by creating and implementing programming languages, operating systems, and innovative systems designs that have advanced the state of the art of data abstraction, modularity, fault tolerance, persistence, and distributed computing systems.

The Venus operating system was an early example of principled operating system design. The CLU programming language was one of the earliest and most complete programming languages based on modules formed from abstract data types and incorporating unique intertwining of both early and late binding mechanisms. ARGUS extended many of the CLU ideas to distributed programming, and incorporated the first versions of nested transactions to maintain predictable consistencies. Other advances include solutions elegantly combining theory and pragmatics in the areas of decentralized information flow, replicated storage and caching of persistent objects, and modular upgrading of distributed systems. Her contributions have been incorporated into the practice of programming, thereby influencing many of the most important systems used today: for programming, specification, systems design, and distributed architectures.

Here is a DDJ interview, in which Liskov mentions CLU and data abstraction as the accomplishment she is most proud of.

And here are searches of the LtU archives for Liskov and CLU.

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We used CLU for the Software

We used CLU for the Software Engineering and Compiler courses at MIT back around 1990. I remember thinking the language was pretty nice, although of course I hadn't been exposed to object-oriented programming at that point. (IIRC, CLU had class-based abstraction but not polymorphism.)

I think they switched to Java a while ago.

Well deserved.

If I had to choose the four most profound languages of the 1970s, I'd have to pick CLU, Scheme, ML, and Prolog.

I always liked the looks of Sather, which cites CLU and Lisp as two of it's major influences. If Java had been more like Sather, I would certainly like it a great deal better. I probably would not have abandoned OO as I became more involved with FP.


It's not a matter of being deserved or not but the Turing Award is much like a near death experience provided to a couple of senior citizens whose best time is behind them for decades. I would be scared a lot when I received one. Fortunately I don't even come close.

So what? One could say that

So what? One could say that is true with any career award, like a Nobel Prize. Then there is that pesky "most significant contributions are made before you are 30" :) In CS, the youth edge seems sharper but actually, most of the great work in our field was done in the 60s and 70s, I'm astounded at the modern relevance that I still find in papers from that era. Most of today's conference papers are weak in comparison (we've become too big with lower quality).

At any rate, these people are still very active, I've been to a few Turing Award speeches (they do a talk at their home conference), and they are usually a mix of looking back and looking forward. In other words, to quote Twain: "the news of their death has been greatly exaggerated".