dress society’s and our nation’s grand
challenges; and 3) Computer science
has a rich intellectual agenda.
My slides are available in .pptx and
.pdf formats: ( http://www.cs.cmu.
Sept-2-2010.pptx) and (http://www.
Wing-Sept-2-2010.pdf). Please see the
Notes pages of my PowerPoint slides for
oct. 2, 2010
Barbara Liskov, Institute Professor at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), received the 2008 A.M.
Turing Award for her innovations to
designing and building computer
systems and her achievements in programming language design that have
made software more reliable and easier
to maintain. Liskov opened her talk by
commenting that receiving the Turing
Award had given her an opportunity to
reflect on her meandering career path
and the work she has done.
Liskov grew up in San Francisco in
the 1950s. She was interested in math
and science, so she took lots of classes, but she didn’t talk about it much
because it wasn’t cool for girls to like
math and science. She then went to the
University of California, Berkeley, and
became a math major, despite being
one of very few women in her classes.
After her undergraduate work, Liskov
didn’t feel ready for graduate school, so
she moved to Boston and was offered
a job as a programmer at the MITRE
Corp. She learned FORTRAN, and discovered she really liked programming.
After a year, she moved to Harvard and
worked on their language translation
project. This was during the period of
great optimism about artificial intelligence (AI). Liskov maintained a large
program written in machine language,
which was great training for becoming
a computer scientist. Of course, it also
gave her a great understanding of bad
code, especially since it was self-mod-ifying code.
Liskov eventually decided to go
back to school because she wasn’t
learning fast enough. She went to
Stanford, met John McCarthy, boldly
asked him for support, and ended up
working with him during her graduate
studies. She was the only woman in
her class, followed by Susan Graham
who entered a year later. But it was a
very supportive environment. Liskov
eventually decided to switch out of AI
after finishing her thesis because she
had become more interested in com-
Jeannette M. Wing is a professor at Carnegie Mellon
university. Valerie Barr is the chair of the computer
science department at union College.
© 2011 aCM 0001-0782/11/09 $10.00