'Nobel Prize in Computing' goes to distributed computing wrangler Leslie Lamport

Leslie Lamport, a Microsoft Research principal, has been named the winner of the 2013 ACM A.M. Turing Award, also known as the "Nobel Prize in Computing."

The computer scientist was recognized by the Association for Computing Machinery for "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."

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His algorithms, models and verification systems have enabled distributed computer systems to play the key roles they're used in throughout the data center, security and cloud computing landscapes.

The award includes a $250,000 prize, with funding support by Intel and Google.

ACM President Vint Cerf, in a statement, noted that "as an applied mathematician, Leslie Lamport had an extraordinary sense of how to apply mathematical tools to important practical problems. By finding useful ways to write specifications and prove correctness of realistic algorithms, assuring a strong foundation for complex computing operations, he helped to move verification from an academic discipline to a practical tool."

Specifically, Lamport's claims to fame include the notion of Byzantine failure, temporal logic language (TLA+) and LaTex, a document preparation system used in computer science and other fields. Lamport's 1978 paper "Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System" - is one of computer science's most highly cited.

Here's a video of Lamport in action, discussing what computation is:

Before joining Microsoft in 2001, Lamport worked for numerous companies, including SRI International and Digital Equipment Corp. (later Compaq). He earned a B.S. degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics from Brandeis University.

The Turing Award is the latest in a long line of honors bestowed upon Lamport, who has also received the IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award for his contributions to the theory and practice of concurrent programming and fault-tolerant computing and the IEEE John von Neumann Medal. He has about 150 publications to his name on concurrent and distributed computing.

ACM will present the 2013 A.M. Turing Award at its annual Awards Banquet on June 21 in San Francisco.  Last year's Turing Award went to a pair of MIT crypto experts

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