The Power of Abstraction

Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 7:00pm
Barbara Liskov, MIT
Barbara Liskov

Abstraction is at the center of much work in Computer Science. It encompasses finding the right interface for a system as well as finding an effective design for a system implementation. Furthermore abstraction is an important way to make progress within computer science: once the right abstraction has been defined, it allows previously unresolved problems to be ignored from then on and provides a building block for future work. This talk will discuss abstraction mechanisms, their support in programming languages, and their use in designing and implementing programs.

Barbara Liskov is an Institute Professor and head of the Programming Methodology Group at MIT. Liskov's research interests lie in programming methodology, programming languages and systems, and distributed computing. Major projects include: the design and implementation of CLU, the first language to support data abstraction; the design and implementation of Argus, the first high-level language to support implementation of distributed programs; and the Thor object-oriented database system, which provides transactional access to persistent, highly-available objects in wide-scale distributed environments. Her current research interests include Byzantine-fault-tolerant storage systems, peer-to-peer computing, and support for automatic deployment of software upgrades in large-scale distributed systems. Liskov is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Association for Computer Machinery. She received The Society of Women Engineers' Achievement Award in 1996 and the IEEE von Neumann medal in 2004. She was awarded the Programming Languages Achievement Award at the 2008 ACM SIGPLAN Programming Languages Design and Implementation Conference (PLDI). She received this year's (2009) A.M. Turing Award from ACM.