Second woman to win a Turing award will receive an honorary doctorate

Monday, June 10, 2019

Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Barbara Liskov, will receive an honorary doctorate of Mathematics at the June 14 Convocation Ceremony.

Liskov holds several honours for her groundbreaking work on software systems design and development of the first methodology for organizing a program around data abstraction. Her early work focused on artificial intelligence; however, her work in software systems design has gained the most attention. Her research contributions have led to it being easier to build and maintain complex computing systems. She also designed Thor – arguably the first high-performance, large-scale distributed persistent object system.

After completing a BA in Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, Liskov went on to complete her MSc and PhD at Stanford University. She joined MIT as faculty in 1972 after working at Mitre Corporation as a member of the technical staff in the area of Computer Science Research and Development.

Early on, she saw the importance of fault tolerance. Using nested transactions, which don't conflict with the actions of a parent transaction, Liskov provided a natural foundation for building fault-tolerant distributed systems. The nested transactions she developed led to the building of the Java RMI system and CORBA standards around these transactions. Several distributed systems around the world incorporate her work. Her solution to the Byzantine Agreement problem was the first practically useful solution. In addition, the ideas Liskov pioneered in the a programming language she designed called CLU, lie at the heart of C++, C#, Java, Python, and .net languages.

In 2008, Liskov was awarded the Turing Award for her “contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming languages and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance and distributed computing.”

Her other honours include:

  • IEEE John von Neumann Medal
  • Geroge R. Stibitz Computer and Communications Pioneer Award
  • Harold Pender Award
  • Fellow of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  • Member of the US National Academy of Engineering
  • Member of US National Academy of Sciences
  • Member of US National Academy of Inventors
  • Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Liskov also holds honorary degrees from ETH Zurich, Brown University, Northwestern University, University of Lugano, Carnegie Mellon University and the Technical University of Barcelona.

Liskov will give a talk on Thursday, June 13, as well as participate in a panel moderated by the Director of Women in Computer Science, Maura Grossman, as part of the Turing Symposium & Celebrating Women in Computer Science.

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