John Warner Backus
Award Name : National Medal of Science
Year of Award : 1975
Award for : Science and Engineering
Location : Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
John Warner Backus was an American computer scientist. He directed the team that invented the first widely used high-level programming language (FORTRAN) and was the inventor of the Backus-Naur form (BNF), a widely used notation to define formal language syntax. He also did research in function-level programming and helped to popularize it. John Warner Backus was born on December 3, 1924, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. He studied at the The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and was apparently not a diligent student. After entering the University of Virginia to study chemistry, he quit and was drafted into the U.S. Army. He began medical training and, during an internship at a hospital, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was successfully removed; a plate was installed in his head, and he dropped out of medical training after nine months and a subsequent operation to replace the plate with one of his own design. He received the National Medal of Science in 1975, and the 1977 ACM Turing Award “for profound, influential, and lasting contributions to the design of practical high-level programming systems, notably through his work on FORTRAN, and for seminal publication of formal procedures for the specification of programming languages.