Algol Pioneer Receives Turing AwardAlgol Pioneer Receives Turing Award
The Association for Computing Machinery says this year's winner is Peter Naur, who carried out key work in defining the Algol 60, a high-level compiler language.
March 1, 2006
Algol 60 has produced another winner of the A. M. Turing award. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announced Wednesday that this year's winner is Peter Naur, who carried out key work in defining the Algol 60, a high-level compiler language.
Naur was editor in 1960 of the influential "Report on the Algorithmic Language Algol 60," which helped define Algol 60 as the model for later programming languages. "The report made pioneering use of what later become known as Backus-Naur Form (BNF) to define the syntax of programs," according to ACM. "BNF is now the standard way to define a computer language." An earlier recipient of the Turing Award, Edsger Dijkstra, has called the development of Algol 60 "an absolute miracle" that paved the way to computing science because it demonstrated that automatic computing could be a subject worthy of university and academic interest. Named after Alan Turing, the mathematician who formulated and parsed many issues of early electronic digital computing, the $100,000 award is supported by Intel. James Gray, chair of the 2005 Turing Committee, said in a statement: "Naur's contribution was a watershed in the computing field, and transformed the way we define programming languages. Many of the programming constructs we take for granted today were introduced in the Algol Report, which introduced a concise block-structured language that improved the way we express algorithms." For many years, Naur was a professor at the Copenhagen University Institute of Datalogy, retiring in 1998. He carried out his important work on Algol while working at Regnecentralen, Denmark's first computer company. John Backus, another former Turing winner, said that Naur was the driving intellectual force behind the definition of Algol 60. The ACM noted that several winners of the Turing award were involved in developing Algol 60.
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