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These are scientists that made a significant contribution to the field and will be forever remembered for their work. Here are 10 Computer Scientists who made history.

1. Alan Turing

Alan Turing is an English computer scientist, widely considered to be the father of computer science. The prestigious “Turing Award” was named after him - an award given to those in computer science who make a significant contribution to the industry. Turing worked for the British Government, playing a pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages and enabling the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements. Despite the sheer brilliance of his work, he was not fully recognized for his contributions as he was a homosexual, which was illegal in the UK at the time.

If you are interested in the history of computer science, Alan Turing's biography is a must-read.

Alan Turing

2. Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee is the inventor of the World Wide Web and HTML. He was born in England and has an engineering background, through developing computer systems in the 80s. He is indeed a true pioneer in the field of Computer Science, and without Tim’s ideas and development work, we simply wouldn’t have the internet as we know it today.

Tim is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), where he currently oversees the development of the web. Also, Tim lectures at the University of Oxford, teaching computer science. Tim was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution and named by Time magazine for being one of the most important and influential people of the 20th century.

Tim Berners-Lee

3. John von Neumann

John von Neumann is a Hungarian-American computer scientist and mathematician, known for his work in pioneering the field of game theory. He contributed over 150 papers in his lifetime, spread out over Pure and Applied Mathematics, and other specialized topics. In World War II, John von Neumann also worked on the Manhattan Project, where he solved problems in the nuclear physics domain.

Here is an interesting book related to his work: Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.

John von Neumann

4. Woz

Steve Wozniak, or “Woz”, is the co-founder and original programmer Apple. He was the technical genius behind the company, helping to orchestrate and build Apple products and services. He invented Integer BASIC, the BASIC interpreter used for the original Apple I and Apple II platforms. Here is a sample of the code he has written showing his programming style. Unless you know BASIC, then this appears foreign to most. There’s no syntax highlighting or intelligent code completion in sight.

You can access his full biography here.


5. Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie is the co-creator of the C Programming language, the underpinning language for many software systems. It is used in many different industries and has inspired a whole series of programming languages (or C-like languages). The language is taught in computer science courses, inside Universities and educational institutions, is a foundational language for software developers.

Dennis was also the co-creator of Unix, a family of operating systems that were developed in the 1970s. Unix lead the way and became very popular for its features, by having a modular design, unified filesystem, and the Unix Shell (later developed into Bash). Unix was used by Apple in “MacOS", which maintains the largest amount of installations using Unix.

Dennis, along with his co-founder, was awarded the Turing Award. One of the most prestigious awards in the field of computer science. Dennis is a leader in computer science, providing an incredible language that has taken the world by storm.

Here is an fundamental book on C: The C Programming Language

Dennis Ritchie

6. Brian Kernighan

Brian Kernighan is co-author the first C Programming book. The significance of the C Programming language is tremendous. Many have said that learning C is almost an essential in any software developer’s journey- a language that helps people to understand the building blocks of a computer. Brian has been a professor of the computer science division at Princeton University since the year 2000.

Brian was also contributed to the development of Unix, a family of operating systems that were released in the 1970s. Unix lead the way and became very popular for its features, by having a modular design, unified filesystem, and the Unix Shell (later developed into Bash). Unix was used by Apple in “MacOS”, which maintains the largest amount of installations using Unix.

This is the same book we listed in the previous section, a fundamental book on C: C Programming Language

Brian Kernighan

7. Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds is the creator of the famous “Linux” kernel, the core of many operating systems, such as Chrome OS and Android. He is also the creator of “Git”, the version control system used heavily throughout the software development industry. Linus is a pioneer in the industry with his engineering mindset, and relentless ability to develop software systems.

View Linux on Github

Some great books on Linux:

Linus Torvalds

8. James Gosling

James Gosling is the inventor of the Java programming language. He is a Canadian computer scientist and distinguished engineer at Amazon Web Services. His contributions to the field of computer science are phenomenal. Java is one of the most popular languages used in the software industry. It’s used throughout many organizations and software systems. Java was acquired by Oracle Corporation, to which it currently owns the rights to the programming language.

Original Java book found here

James Gosling

9. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider

Joseph is the inventor of Cloud Computing, a computing paradigm that has taken over the world. Today’s largest companies, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have adopted Cloud Computing and have harnessed its power to create Cloud services. These services are used by other software systems to build applications that do not pose high storage costs and the need for local data centers. This is the forefront of modern technology and the software industry.

The Dream Machine was released, showing his life's work and his vision of something called "human-computer symbiosis".

Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider

10. John McCarthy

John McCarthy is the inventor of Artificial Intelligence (AI). He was a computer scientist and cognitive scientist born in the United State of America, providing a significant contribution to the computer science industry with the topic of Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, he also created the Lisp programming language family and had influence over the design of the ALGOL language. He spent most of his career at the Stanford University and received a Turing Award for his contributions to the field of AI.

His tribute: Artificial Intelligence and Mathematical Theory of Computation: Papers in Honor of John McCarthy

John McCarthy


In this article, we discussed 10 computer scientists who made history. Who are your favorites?

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