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March 18, 2014 at 9:11 AM

Microsoft researcher Leslie Lamport wins prestigious Turing Award

Leslie Lamport, a principal researcher working out of Microsoft Research’s Silicon Valley lab, has been awarded the 2013 A.M. Turing Award.

The award has been referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing and is named after the British mathematician and computer scientist who was a pioneer in the field.

Leslie Lamport (Photo from Microsoft)

Leslie Lamport (Photo from Microsoft)

The award was bestowed by the Association for Computing Machinery, which said it named Lamport, 73, the prize recipient for his work “imposing clear, well-defined coherence on the seemingly chaotic behavior of distributed computing systems, in which several autonomous computers communicate with each other by passing messages.”

The association further said:

He devised important algorithms and developed formal modeling and verification protocols that improve the quality of real distributed systems. These contributions have resulted in improved correctness, performance, and reliability of computer systems.

Lamport is the fifth scientist from Microsoft Research to win the Turing Award. The others are Chuck Thacker (2009), Jim Gray (1998), Butler Lampson (1992) and Tony Hoare (1980).

Lamport said today:

During my career I have had the privilege and the benefit of working in some way with about a dozen Turing award winners, including Chuck Thacker, Butler Lampson, Jim Gray, Tony Hoare, Amir Pnueli, and Edsger Dijkstra. I feel greatly honored to have been deemed worthy of joining such a group of brilliant computer scientists.

Lamport’s work has contributed to the reliability and robustness of software and hardware engineering design — increasingly important in an era of cloud computing and data centers, Microsoft said. His work has also contributed to the fields of cybersecurity, embedded systems and database systems.

Microsoft products have also benefitted from his work, according to the company, which said: “His work on Paxos, which allows a computer network to continue working in a coherent way even in the face of failures by transferring leadership roles among machines and halting progress rather than allowing damage to occur, has been implemented in many products. Such uses include Windows Azure storage, Windows Azure’s Rest Availability Proxy, and the Cosmos data storage and query system.”

“This is well-deserved recognition for a remarkable scientist,” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said in a company feature story on Lamport’s award. “As a leader in defining many of the key concepts of distributed computing that enable today’s mission-critical computer systems, Leslie has done great things not just for the field of computer science, but also in helping make the world a safer place. Countless people around the world benefit from his work without ever hearing his name.”

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