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Luminaries of the Turing Award's past



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March 9, 2011 —  (Page 2 of 5)

Edsger Dijkstra – 1972

This Dutch scientist, who died in 2002, won a Turing for his work in the creation of the ALGOL programming language.

Dijkstra's chief interest was formal verification. The prevailing opinion at the time was that one should first write a program and then provide a mathematical proof of correctness. Dijkstra objected, declaring that the resulting proofs were long and cumbersome, and that the proof gave no insight as to how the program was developed.

An alternative method is program derivation, to "develop proof and program hand in hand." One starts with a mathematical specification of what a program is supposed to do and applies mathematical transformations to the specification until it is turned into a program that can be executed. The resulting program is then known to be correct by construction.

Much of Dijkstra's later work concerned ways to streamline mathematical arguments. Dijkstra was known for his forthright opinions on programming, and for his habit of carefully composing manuscripts with his fountain pen. Many of his notes have since been scanned and are available online, according to the ACM.



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