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Computer programmer who inspired Bill Gates wins top award

'The Art of Programming' author celebrated for contribution to IT

Professor Donald Knuth, author of industry bible 'The Art of Computer Programming', has been awarded the Faraday Medal by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for his contribution to computer science.

Microsoft's chairman Bill Gates once commended Knuth's book, saying: "If you think you're a really good programmer,... read [Knuth's] Art of Computer Programming.... You should definitely send me a resume if you can read the whole thing."

Knuth, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University's computer science department, received the IET's most prestigious award, named after scientist Michael Faraday, as part of the institution's 2011 Achievement Awards.

Other individuals honoured by the IET include Peter McOwan, professor of computer science in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University London, who was awarded the Mountbatten Medal 2011 for his excellence in communicating computer science to diverse audiences.

Knuth is the 89th recipient of the Faraday Medal, and joins a list of winners that includes WD Coolidge (1939) and Sir Edward V Appleton (1946) for their pioneering work in technology.

"The Faraday Medal is the highest distinction awarded by the IET and Donald Knuth is a very deserving recipient," said Dr Mike Short, president of the IET.

"Knuth's published work has inspired many great engineers that have followed him. Through championing the philosophy of 'literate programming' Knuth has made his subject accessible to everyone."

Literate programming is an approach whereby programs are written by the flow of their thoughs in ordinary human language, like the text of an essay, rather than by the rules set down by machines. Knuth believes that this method produces better programmes as it exposes poor logic and design decisions.

The Faraday Medal is one of many awards that Knuth has received for his contribution to programming. These include the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) Grace Murray Hopper award, the Turing Award, the National Medal of Science, the John von Neumann Medal and the Kyoto Prize.

The IET's awards ceremony will take place on 9 November 2011 at The Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane in London.


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