Dr. Barbara Liskov was recipient of the 2008 Turing Award for contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing.
She is an institute professor and member of the Programming Methodology Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before joining the faculty at MIT, she worked at Mitre Corporation on computer design and operating systems where she created the Venus Computer and operating system. Accepting a position at MIT in 1972 she focused on creating more reliable computer systems. Leading the design and implementation of the CLU programming language that had an emphasis on the ideas of modular programming, data abstraction, and polymorphism she was part of laying a foundation for other object-oriented programming like the modern languages Java and C# would build upon.
Her group at MIT also extended the ideas of CLU, creating the Argus language which eased the implementation of programs distributed over a network. With its support of nested transactions it could be used by a network based banking systems but as it was an experimental language it wasn’t widely adopted but still had an influence on developers all the same.
Recently Liskov’s work has been on distributed systems–ones that run on many computers connected by a network. Her work has been far reaching including many parts of operating systems and computation including work on object-oriented database systems, caching, persistence, recovery, garbage collection, security, decentralized information flow, and practical Byzantine faulty tolerance. Many of these aspects deal with problems that arise when a complex system fails. With a colleague she developed a new notion of subtyping, known as the Liskov substitution principle that allows for correct operations even when some components fail.
Liskov is the author of three books and over 100 technical papers and her work has been honored with the John von Neumann Medal from the IEEE. Named as one of the top 50 faculty members in the sciences in the United States in 2002, ten years later she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Written by Angela Goad