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First Woman PhD in Computer Science Wins Turing Award

Barbara Liskov, the first woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science in the United States, was named this week as a recipient of the Turing Award. Liskov is the second woman to win the award, which is one of the highest honors in computing and technology.

Dr. Dame Wendy Hall, President of the Association for Computing Machinery, said in a statement that Liskov’s “elegant solutions have enriched the research community, but they have also had a practical effect as well…They have led to the design and construction of real products that are more reliable than were believed practical not long ago. In addition to her design features, she focused on engineering innovations that changed the way people thought about programming languages and building complex software. These accomplishments were instrumental in moving concepts out of academia and into the real world.”

In an interview with Dr. Dobbs’s Journal, Liskov described the changes in computer science over the course of her career: “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. Today the field is on a very sound foundation. There are still many problems to work on, but now this work happens in the context of all that has gone before. When I started, this context was missing, so you just struck out on your own.”

Sources:

Association for Computing Machinery Press Release 3/10/09; Dr. Dobbs's Journal 3/10/09