ACM Turing Awards to people affiliated with the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

by Lester Earnest, former Executive Officer of SAIL


ACM Turing Awards are widely recognized as the Nobel Prizes for computing, as discussed on that web site. Remarkably 17 have gone so far to people previously affiliated with SAIL, as listed below.

1969 Marvin Minsky for “artificial intelligence.” He and John McCarthy had co-founded the Artificial Intelligence Project at MIT in the late 1950s and Minsky spent a sabbatical year at Stanford as Visiting Professor during 1964-65.

1971 John McCarthy for “artificial intelligence,” a term that he introduced earlier. Prof. McCarthy was the founder of the Artificial Intelligence Project (AIP) at Stanford, which later became the first project within SAIL.

1974 Donald E. Knuth for his major contributions to the analysis of algorithms and the design of programming languages. Prof. Knuth was partially supported by SAIL and he often used the SAIL computer for his research and writing.

1978 Robert W. Floyd for “having a clear influence on methodologies for the creation of efficient and reliable software.” Prof. Floyd’s research was partially supported by SAIL and he often used the SAIL computer.

1980  A. Antony R. Hoare for “his fundamental contributions to the definition and design of programming languages.” Tony Hoare was a visiting scholar at SAIL in 1969.

1984 Niklaus Wirth for “developing a sequence of innovative computer languages: EULER, ALGOL-W, MODULA and PASCAL.” Wirth was a member of the Stanford Computer Science Department in the mid-1960s and, with John McCarthy, contributed to the design of the first display-based timesharing here, called Zeus.

1986 Robert Tarjan (with John Hopcroft) for “fundamental achievements in the design and analysis of algorithms and data structures.”  Tarjan did his PhD at SAIL during 1977-80.

1991 Robin Milner for three major achievements in the mathematical theory of computation, a field he worked in at SAIL during 1971-72.

1994 Edward Feigenbaum and Raj Reddy for “pioneering the design and construction of large scale artificial intelligence systems, demonstrating the practical importance and potential commercial impact of artificial intelligence technology.” Feigenbaum joined SAIL when he came to Stanford in 1965 and Reddy earned his PhD there in 1966 then joined the lab as a faculty member.

1996 Amir Pnueli for “seminal work introducing temporal logic into computing science and for outstanding contributions to program and systems verification.” He worked on mathematical theory of computation at SAIL during 1967-68.

2000 Andrew Chi-Chih Yao “in recognition of his fundamental contributions to the theory of computation, including the complexity-based theory of pseudorandom number generation, cryptography, and communication complexity.” Prof. Yao did some of his early work on those topics at SAIL during 1976-80.

2002 Ronald L. Rivest, (with Adi Shamir and Leonard M. Adleman) for “their ingenious contribution for making public-key cryptography useful in practice.” Rivest worked on his dissertation at SAIL beginning in 1969. The initiator of the concept of public-key encryption was Whitfield Diffie, also of SAIL.

2003 Alan Kay for “pioneering many of the ideas at the root of contemporary object-oriented programming languages, leading the team that developed Smalltalk, and for fundamental contributions to personal computing.” Kay spent two years as a post-doc at SAIL before moving on to Xerox PARC and elsewhere.

2004 Vinton G. Cerf (with Robert E. Kahn) for “pioneering work on internetworking, including the design and implementation of the Internet's basic communications protocols, TCP/IP, and for inspired leadership in networking.” Cerf came to Stanford as an assistant professor in 1973, was funded to work on what became TCP/IP under the same DARPA contract that supported most of SAIL’s work, and often used the SAIL computer in that work.

2008 Barbara Hubermann Liskov for “contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing.” She did her PhD dissertation on chess end games at SAIL during the mid-1960s.

2015 Whitfield Diffie for “New Directions in Cryptography” which introduced the ideas of public-key cryptography and digital signatures, which are the foundation for most regularly-used security protocols on the Internet today. The Diffie-Hellman Protocol protects daily Internet communications and trillions of dollars in financial transactions.