Programmers day: 10 of the most influential programmers in history!


To celebrate programmers day, we have a list of the top 10 most influential programmers in history via rankred.

Stick around until the end of the article to learn and practicee some vocabulary found in it!

Computer is a very complex machine, yet people operate it without any technical skills. They just interact with graphical interface and all the background process is usually hidden. Well, every single element you are seeing on your desktop is created by some genius developer. And, today we are highlighting these brilliant minds from all across the world.


  1. Grace Hopper

Who is she: Grace Hopper was a US Navy rear admiral and a computer scientist. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer.

What she has done: Hopper invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. She popularized the methodology of machine-independent programming language, which led to the development of COBOL. She is also credited for popularizing the term debugging for fixing machine glitches.

Major Achievements: She was the first woman in the world who got her name in Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, Honorary Doctor of Science from Marquette University and National Medal of Technology (1991).

  1. John Backus

Who is he: John Backus was a computer scientist, best known as developer of FORTRAN. He received an M.S in mathematics in 1950, from Colombia University.

What he has done: Backus directed the team that invented FORTRAN, the first widely used high-level programming language. He invented BNF (Backus-Naur form), a notation to define formal language syntax. He also popularized the term functional programming language

Major Achievements: Backus received W.W. McDowell Award, National Medal of Science, ACM Turing Award, Draper Prize and named an IBM Fellow.

  1. Bill Gates

Who is he: The man who needs no introduction. How could I leave out the world’s richest programmer whose software is used by the whole world?

What he has done: For the first 5 years at Microsoft, Gates personally oversaw every single line of code that company sent out, often fixing ones he deemed buggy or incorrect. In the early days, he and Paul Allen wrote a full BASIC language interpreter in assembly language for a computer they didn’t even have access to, which had only 4k bytes of memory. They wrote it on PDP-10 running on Intel 8080 emulator.

Major Achievements: He was honoured with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society and Bower Award for Business Leadership.

  1. Brian Kernighan

Who is he: Brian Kernighan is a computer scientist who worked at Bell Labs. Early in career, he was a software editor for Prentice Hall International.

What he has done: He developed Unix OS with Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson. He authored numerous Unix programs including cron and ditroff for Version 7. Kernighan is coauthor of AMPL and AWK programming language. He also devised heuristic of the travelling salesman problem and graph partitioning (both are NP complete problems).
Brian is also the coiner of well-known expression “What You See Is All You Get”(WYSIAYG).

Major Achievements: He won INFORMS Computing Society Prize in 1993, and received many Teacher Awards throughout his career.

  1. Ken Thompson

Who is he: Ken Thompson is a pioneer of computer science and hacker community. He is best known for designing and implementing the Unix operating system.

What he has done: Thompson developed the original Unix OS with Ritchie. He invented B programming language and was one of the early developers of Plan 9 operating system. He also invented Go programming language while working for Google. Moreover, Thompson worked on UTF-8 encoding, endgame tablebases and regular expressions

Major Achievements: He was honored with Turing Award, Japan Prize, IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award, Computer Pioneer Award and National Medal of Technology.

  1. Tim Berners-Lee

Who is he: Tim Berners-Lee is a computer scientist, best known as the inventor of World Wide Web. He is the director of W3C, Web Science Research Initiative and a senior researcher and holder of the Founders Chair (MIT).

What he has done: In 1989, Tim made a proposal for an information management system and he successfully implemented the communication between an HTTP client and server via the internet. He is also a key figure behind, a UK government project to open up all data acquired for official work for free reuse.

Major Achievements: Tim was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his outstanding work, honored with Software System Award, Pride of Britain and Young Innovator of the Year (1995).

  1. Bjarne Stroustrup

Who is he: Bjarne Stroustrup is a computer scientist, research professor, works at Morgan Stanley. He was a head of Bell Labs’ large scale programming research department.

What he has done: Bjarne Stroustrup worked alongside Dennis Ritchie co-developing the C language. In 1978, he began developing C++ language (later called C with Classes). He wrote its definition, produced first implementation and designed all its major facilities. Stroustrup also wrote the textbook for the language he developed, The C++ programming language.

Major Achievements: He was awarded the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, Grace Murray Hopper Award and he was made a fellow of Computer History Museum for his C++ invention.

  1. Linus Torvalds

Who is he: Linus Torvalds is a software engineer, project coordinator and hacker. He is the man behind Linux operating system.

What he has done: He has written the Linux kernel code (approx 2%) and the revision control system Git. Many popular OS including Ubuntu, Fedora and Android are based on Linux. Torvalds holds the “Linux” trademark and monitors the use of it.

Major Achievements: He was honored with the Millennium Technology Prize, along with Shinya Yamanaka for creating an open source operating system. He also received an EFF Pioneer Award, Lovelace Medal from the British Computer Society and Vollum Award from Reed College.

  1. Dennis Ritchie

Who is he: Dennis Ritchie was a revolutionary computer scientist who played pivotal role in developing “C” programming language and Unix operating system. He was employed by Lucent Technologies & Bell Labs and defended his PhD thesis on ‘Program Structure and Computational Complexity‘. However, he never officially received his PhD degree.

What he has done: He developed “C” programming language on which many currently used machine language and technology are based, including your PS4/Xbox. Ritchie created a multiuser operating system called Unix. He is also known for developing ALTRAN, B, BCPL and Multics.

Major Achievements: Ritchie was honored with Turing Award, Hamming Medal from the IEEE, Computer Pioneer Award, Computer History Museum Fellow and Harold Pender Award.

  1. Alan Mathison Turing


Who is he: Alan Turing was a computer scientist, mathematician, cryptanalyst and logician. He has been called the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

What he has done: During World War II, he devised numerous techniques for breaking German ciphers. Turing built an electromechanical machine that could find settings of the Enigma machine. He formalized the concepts of computation and algorithm with the Turing machine, a machine that can be adapted to simulate the logic of any algorithms.

Major Achievements: He was honored with the Smith’s Prize, Officer of the Order of the British Empire and Fellow of Royal Society.
Since 1966, Turing Award has been given annually by the Association for Computing Machinery for contributions to the computing community.


Do you want to practice the vocabulary contained in this article? Go ahead and click here to practice with flashcards on the Quizlet platform.

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