Some tips for writing a good essay:

  • Draw on at least four independent sources. Do not rely too heavily on any one source.
  • Sources for all information must be appropriately cited in the essay.
  • Give biographical information, describe what they are well known for, and how their work connects to computer science.
  • Take the time to understand what they are known for. Make sure your descriptions of their work conveys your understanding of it.
  • Describe their contributions to computer science in the context of the state of computer science at the time. Describe whether or not these contributions are still relevant today (if applicable).
  • Plagiarism is never okay. Don't be that person.

Computer Science Personalities

Choose a personality from the list below. You may want to read a bit about a number of these folks before deciding on a particular person to write about.

Scott Aaronson
blogger, computational complexity, quantum computing.
Luis von Ahn
human computation, duolingo, CAPTCHA.
John Attanasoff
inventor of the first automatic digital computer.
Charles Babbage
"father of the computer", originated with the idea of programmable device.
Fabrice Bellard
known for ffmpeg and Qemu projects.
Tim Berners-Lee
Inventor of the WWW, the world wide web.
James Blinn
did NASA's earliest computer animations; won a McArthur "genius" grant.
Grady Booch
best known for unified modeling language.
George Boole
developed boolean algebra, the basis of modern computers.
Anita Borg
computer scientist, advocacy for technical women.
Sergey Brin
Co-founder of Google.
Fred Brooks
managed development of System/360 and OS/360 from IBM.
Rod Brooks
seminal work in artificial intelligence.
Jin-Yi Cai
computational complexity theory, UW-Madison.
Luca Cardelli
well known for research in type theory and operational semantics.
Ed Catmull
CGI pioneer; founder/president of Pixar.
Vint Cerf
instrumental in developing the technology behind the Internet, one of the "Fathers of the Internet".
Noam Chomsky
linguist, developed the Chomsky hierarchy of languages.
Alonzo Church
mathematician, known for lambda calculus, Church's thesis.
David Clark
development of the Internet architecture.
Edmund Clark
co-invented model checking.
Alan Cox
a major contributor to the Linux kernel.
David Culler
inventor of tinyOS operating system.
Andy van Dam
known in the area of computer graphics.
Paul Debevec
Pioneer mixing real/synthetic imagery; Academy awards, etc.
Steve Deering
development and enhancements to the Internet technologies.
Eric Demaine
data structures, origami, art, joined MIT faculty at age 20.
Edsger Dijkstra
computer scientist, known for many algorithms (such as one for single source shortest paths) and influences on programming languages.
Andrea diSessa
learning science, logo.
J. Presper Eckert
co-inventor of ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer.
Susan Eggers
computer architect, parallel architectures, university of washington.
Larry Ellison
co-founder and CEO of Oracle.
Douglas Engelbart
work in human computer interaction, invention of mouse, hypertext, etc.
Ed Felten
computer security researcher.
Richard Feynman
Michael Fischer
influences in distributed and parallel computing and algorithms.
Ian Foster
"father of grid computing."
Ed Fredkin
pioneer of digital physics, known for reversible computing and cellular automata.
Hector Garcia-Molina
known for work in databases.
Bill Gates
Microsoft, philanthropy.
David Gelernter
tuple space coordination model for distributed computing.
Garth Gibson
professor of computer science, co-inventor of RAID (redundant array of independent disks).
Kurt Goedel
"incompleteness theorem", mathematics, self-reference.
Shafi Goldwasser
influences in computation complexity and cryptography. Showed the hardness of some approximation problems and co-invented zero-knowledge proofs.
James Gosling
"father of the Java programming language".
Jim Gray
contributions to databases, envisioning the fourth paradigm of science, mysterious disappearance.
James Grimmelmann
copyright law, technology law, NYU.
John Hennessy
founded MIPS Computer Systems.
Tony Hoare
known for quicksort, Hoare logic, etc.
John Hopcroft
fundamental contributions to design and analysis of algorithms and data structures.
Grace Murray Hopper
credited with developing the first compiler for a programming language; her ideas led to the invention of COBOL.
Berthold K. P. Horn
Pioneer in Computer Vision; MIT professor; author of key textbooks; computer optics.
Van Jacobson
renowned for TCP/IP congestion avoidance algorithm, crucial to the working of the Internet.
Steve Jobs
Apple founder.
Bill Joy
co-founded Sun Microsystems, one of the main developers of BSD Unix in its early days, creator of vi and csh.
Philippe Kahn
technology innovator and entrepreneur; founded four companies: Fullpower Technologies, Starfish Software, LightSurf Technologies and Borland.
Mitch Kapor
Lotus founder, co-founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, and first chair of Mozilla.
Anna Karlin
high-impact contributions areas of algorithmic game theory, systems, distributed computing, and data mining.
Robert Karp
NP completeness.
Randy Katz
professor of computer science, co-inventor of RAID (redundant array of independent disks).
Alan Kay
pioneering work in object oriented programming languages and GUI.
Ken Kennedy
former professor of computer science at Rice; developed software for high performance computing, specifically vectorizer and compilers for Fortran and related languages.
Brian Kernigan
computer scientist, co-developed Unix; coauhtored AWK and AMPL programming languages.
Bob Kahn
co-inventor of TCP and IP protocols, which form the backbone of the modern Internet.
Jack Kilby
Co-inventor of integrated circuit at Texas Instruments.
Jon Kleinberg
small world networks, social science meets computer science.
Leonard Kleinrock
queueing theory, packet switching; influential in development of ARPANET, Internet; professor at UCLA.
Donald Knuth
Algorithms, creator of TeX.
Monica Lam
Mobile computing, compilers, systems, security; professor at Stanford.
Leslie Lamport
Developed LaTeX, work in distributed systems.
Butler Lampson
Founding member of Xerox PARC, worked on laser printer, ethernet, LAN, many others.
Ed Lazowska
Systems, data science; professor at Washington.
Charles Leiserson
Parallel computing algorithms; professor at MIT.
Lawrence Lessig
Lawyer, founded Creative Commons; Net Neutrality proponent; professor of law at Harvard.
Barbara Liskov
Programming languages, distributed computing; professor at MIT.
Laci Lovasz
Major contributions in graph theory, combinatorics, algorithms; professor at Eotvas Lorand University in Hungary.
Ada Lovelace
First programmer; worked on algorithms for Babbage's analytical engine.
Jitendra Malik
Pioneer in Computer Vision, scale space, PDEs; UC Berkeley professor.
Benoit Mandelbrot
Mathematician; foundational work in fractals.
John Mauchly
Physicist, designed ENIAC.
John McCarthy
AI pioneer, developed Lisp.
Robert Metcalf
Co-inventer of Ethernet, founded 3Com.
Stanley Milgram
Social psychologist; small world experiment leading to six degrees of separation concept.
Marvin Minsky
Pioneer in AI; co-founder MIT’s CSAIL.
Hans Moravec
Roboticist, futurist; professor at CMU.
Jim Morris
Contributions in programming languages and communication aspects of HCI; professor at CMU.
Robert Tappan Morris
Created first computer worm; cofounded Viaweb, YCombinator; professor at MIT.
Klara Nahrstedt
Many wireless, wired networking contributions; professor at UIUC.
Ted Nelson
Sociologist; many ideas influencing philosophies of internet.
John von Neumann
Mathematician, major contributions everywhere: quantum mechanics, game theory, pure math, CS, etc.; worked on Manhattan project.
Peter Norvig
Wrote the book on AI; director of Research at Google.
John Ousterhout
Creator Tcl, Tk; professor at Stanford.
Larry Page
Co-founder of Google.
Christos Papadamitrou
Theorist, major works in Algorithmic Game Theory, Complexity, everywhere else; wrote graphic novel; professor at UC-Berkeley.
Seymour Papert
Learning Science, constructionism, invented Logo language.
David Patterson
Major contributions to RISC processor design, RAID; professor at UC-Berkeley.
Randy Pausch
CGI pioneer at Disney: "Bulding Virtual Worlds", ALICE; inspirational CMU professor; died tragically young; wrote book "Last Lecture" full of inspiring scientific-life guides.
Allen Perlis
Computer Scientist; focus in programming language; author, "Epigrams on Programming".
Robert Pike
Software Engineer at Bell Labs, Google; Plan 9 OS, Go, Sawzili languages.
Jon Postel
Computer scientist; focus on Internet standards & protocols.
Eric Raymond
Developer, open source advocate.
Jennifer Rexford
Computer Scientist; computer networking, Internet; game theory in computer networks.
Dennis Ritchie
Computer scientist; creater of C; major contributions to UNIX.
Ron Rivest
Cryptography; the R in RSA.
Roger Schank
Researcher in AI and learning sciences; focused now on educational reform.
Margo Seltzer
Researcher in file systems; professor at Harvard.
Claude Shannon
Information theory pioneer.
William Shockley
Co-invented the transistor.
Peter Shor
Research in Quantum Algorithms; developed one of two most well known Quantum algorithms; prof at MIT.
Herbert Simon
Cross-disciplinary researcher - major contributions in Econ, AI, Sociology.
Ben Slivka
Northwestern alumnus, Microsoft program manager for Internet Explorer.
Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek founder, Stack Overflow, outspoken blogger.
Richard Stallman
GNU, Emacs, GCC, free software foundation.
Guy Steele
Worked on Scheme, C.
Andy Tanenbaum
MINIX, operating systems; professor at Vrije Institute.
Eva Tardos
Pioneer in Algorithmic Game Theory; professor at Cornell.
Robert Tarjan
Graph algorithms and data structures, professor at Princeton.
Linus Torvalds
Invented Linux, git.
Alan Turing
British mathematician, fundamental work in computability, Turing machine, Turing test.
Jeffrey Ullman
Databases, datamining, stanford.
Leslie Valiant
Complexity theorist; professor at Harvard.
Craig Venter
synthetic life, systems biology, bioinformatics.
Duncan Watts
Social scientist, Yahoo/Microsoft Research, Columbia U.
Norbert Weiner
Mathematician, cybernetics/cog science.
Jennifer Widom
Databases; professor at Stanford.
Jeannette Wing
Formal methods; professor at CMU.
Terry Winograd
HCI, AI; professor at Stanford.
Niklaus Wirth
Designed Pascal and other languages.
Stephen Wolfram
Mathematica, excited about cellular automata.
Steve Wozniak
Apple co-founder.
Andy Yao
Theorist, Turing Award Winner, professor at Tsinghua University.
Jamie Zawinski
Early Netscape developer.
Ellen Zegura
large-scale networks, Compute4Good, professor at Georgia Tech.
Konrad Zuse
Developed first turing-complete computer, first high-level programming language.


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