Barbara Liskov

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Barbara Liskov
Liskov in 2010
Barbara Jane Huberman

(1939-11-07) November 7, 1939 (age 84)
Los Angeles, California, US
Alma mater
Known for
SpouseNathan Liskov (1970–)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
ThesisA Program to Play Chess End Games (1968)
Doctoral advisorJohn McCarthy[1]
Doctoral students

Barbara Liskov (born November 7, 1939, as Barbara Jane Huberman) is an American computer scientist who has made pioneering contributions to programming languages and distributed computing. Her notable work includes the introduction of abstract data types and the accompanying principle of data abstraction, along with the Liskov substitution principle, which applies these ideas to object-oriented programming, subtyping, and inheritance. Her work was recognized with the 2008 Turing Award, the highest distinction in computer science.

Liskov is one of the earliest women to have been granted a doctorate in computer science in the United States, and the second woman to receive the Turing award. She is currently an Institute Professor and Ford Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Liskov was born November 7, 1939, in Los Angeles, California,[4] the eldest of Jane (née Dickhoff) and Moses Huberman's four children.[5] She earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics with a minor in physics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1961. At Berkeley, she had only one other female classmate in her major.[6] She applied to graduate mathematics programs at Berkeley and Princeton. At the time Princeton was not accepting female students in mathematics.[7] She was accepted at Berkeley but instead moved to Boston and began working at Mitre Corporation, where she became interested in computers and programming. She worked at Mitre for one year before taking a programming job at Harvard working on language translation.[7]

She then decided to go back to school and applied again to Berkeley, but also to Stanford and Harvard. In March 1968 she became one of the first women in the United States to be awarded a Ph.D. from a computer science department when she was awarded her degree from Stanford University.[8][9][10] At Stanford, she worked with John McCarthy and was supported to work in artificial intelligence.[7] The topic of her Ph.D. thesis was a computer program to play chess endgames for which she developed the important killer heuristic.[11]


After graduating from Stanford, Liskov returned to Mitre to work as research staff.[2]

Liskov has led many significant projects, including the Venus operating system, a small, low-cost timesharing system; the design and implementation of CLU; Argus, the first high-level language to support implementation of distributed programs and to demonstrate the technique of promise pipelining; and Thor, an object-oriented database system. With Jeannette Wing, she developed a particular definition of subtyping, commonly known as the Liskov substitution principle. She leads the Programming Methodology Group at MIT, with a current research focus in Byzantine fault tolerance and distributed computing.[3] She was on the inaugural Engineering and Computer Science jury for the Infosys Prize in 2009.[12]

Recognition and awards[edit]

Liskov is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). In 2002, she was recognized as one of the top women faculty members at MIT, and among the top 50 faculty members in the sciences in the U.S.[13] In 2002, Discover magazine recognized Liskov as one of the 50 most important women in science.[14]

In 2004, Barbara Liskov won the John von Neumann Medal for "fundamental contributions to programming languages, programming methodology, and distributed systems".[15] On 19 November 2005, Barbara Liskov and Donald E. Knuth were awarded ETH Honorary Doctorates.[16] Liskov and Knuth were also featured in the ETH Zurich Distinguished Colloquium Series.[17] She was awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the University of Lugano in 2011[18] and by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in 2018.[19]

Liskov received the 2008 Turing Award from the ACM in March 2009,[20] for her work in the design of programming languages and software methodology that led to the development of object-oriented programming.[21] Specifically, Liskov developed two programming languages, CLU[22] in the 1970s and Argus[23] in the 1980s.[21] The ACM cited her contributions to the practical and theoretical foundations of "programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing".[24] In 2012 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[25]

In 2023 Liskov was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute for "seminal contributions to computer programming languages and methodology, enabling the implementation of reliable, reusable programs".[26]

Selected works[edit]

Liskov is the author of five books as of February 2023 and over one hundred technical papers.


  • Liskov, Barbara; Atkinson, R.; Bloom, T.; Moss, E.; Schaffert, J. C.; Scheifler, R.; Snyder, A. (1981). CLU: Reference Manual. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. ISBN 978-3-540-10836-8.
  • Alford, M. W.; Ansart, J. P.; Hommel, G.; Lamport, L.; Liskov, Barbara; Mullery, G. P.; Schneider, F. B. (1985). Distributed Systems: Methods and Tools for Specification. An Advanced Course. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. ISBN 978-3-540-15216-3.
  • Liskov, Barbara; Guttag, John (1986). Abstraction and Specification in Program Development. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-12112-5.
  • Liskov, Barbara; Guttag, John (2000). Program Development in Java: Abstraction, Specification, and Object-Oriented Design. Pearson Education. ISBN 978-0-7686-8496-4.

Selected papers[edit]

Personal life[edit]

In 1970, she married Nathan Liskov.[7] They have one son, Moses, who earned a PhD in computer science from MIT in 2004 and teaches computer science at the College of William and Mary.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barbara Liskov at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ a b c "Barbara Liskov". A.M. Turing Award. Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b Barbara Liskov, Programming Methodology Group, MIT.
  4. ^ Karagianis, Liz (Fall 2009). "Top Prize". MIT Spectrum. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Jane Siegel: Obituary". San Francisco Chronicle (via January 24, 2010. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
  6. ^ D'Agostino, Susan (20 November 2019). "The Architect of Modern Algorithms". Quanta Magazine. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  7. ^ a b c d Guttag, John (2005-01-01). The electron and the bit: electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1902–2002. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dept. OCLC 61332947.
  8. ^ "Barbara Liskov". EngineerGirl. Retrieved 2007-09-06. Profile from the National Academies of Engineering.
  9. ^ "UW-Madison Computer Science Ph.D.s Awarded, May 1965 – August 1970". Retrieved 2010-11-08. PhDs granted at UW-Madison Computer Sciences Department.
  10. ^ "Barbara Liskov | Biography, A.M. Turing Award, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-09-25.
  11. ^ Huberman (Liskov), Barbara Jane (1968). A program to play chess end games (PDF) (Report). Technical Report CS 106, Stanford Artificial Intelligence Project Memo AI-65. Stanford University Department of Computer Science. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 11, 2017.
  12. ^ "Infosys Prize - Jury 2009". Infosys Science Foundation. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  13. ^ "MIT's magnificent seven: Women faculty members cited as top scientists". MIT News Office. Cambridge, MA. 5 Nov 2002. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  14. ^ Svitil, Kathy (13 November 2002). "The 50 Most Important Women in Science". Discover. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  15. ^ IEEE John von Neumann Medal Recipients from the website of IEEE
  16. ^ "Honorary Doctors". Zurich: ETH Computer Science. 22 March 2006. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2012. Barbara Liskov and Donald E. Knuth were awarded the title ETH Honorary Doctor on 19 November 2005.
  17. ^ "Distinguished Lecturers Barbara Liskov and Donald E. Knuth". Zurich: ETH Computer Science. January 2006. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  18. ^ "USI Honorary Doctorates". USI. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  19. ^ "Barbara Liskov, nueva doctora honoris causa por la UPM -" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  20. ^ Weisman, Robert (March 10, 2009). "Top prize in computing goes to MIT professor". The Boston Globe.
  21. ^ a b Barbara Liskov Wins Turing Award | March 10, 2009 from the Dr. Dobb's Journal website
  22. ^ Liskov, B.; Snyder, A.; Atkinson, R.; Schaffert, C. (August 1977). "Abstraction mechanisms in CLU". Communications of the ACM. 20 (8): 564–576. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/359763.359789. S2CID 17343380.
  23. ^ Liskov, B. (March 1988). "Distributed programming in Argus". Comm. ACM. 31 (3): 300–312. doi:10.1145/42392.42399. S2CID 16233001.
  24. ^ "ACM Names Barbara Liskov Recipient of the 2008 ACM A.M. Turing Award". Association for Computing Machinery. Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  25. ^ "Spotlight | National Inventors Hall of Fame". 2013-11-21. Archived from the original on 2016-08-14. Retrieved 2016-05-31.
  26. ^ "Barbara H. Liskov, Ph.D." Retrieved 2024-03-25.

External links[edit]