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Robert W Floyd
Born June 8, 1936(1936-06-08)
New York
Died September 25, 2001 (aged 65)
Nationality American
Fields Computer Science
Institutions Carnegie Mellon University
Stanford University
Known for Floyd's algorithm
Notable awards Turing Award

Robert W Floyd (June 8, 1936 – September 25, 2001) was an eminent computer scientist.

Born in New York, Floyd finished school at age 14. At the University of Chicago, he received a Bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1953 (when still only 17) and a second Bachelor's degree in physics in 1958.

Becoming a computer operator in the early 1960s, he began publishing many noteworthy papers and was appointed an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University by the time he was 27 and became a full professor at Stanford University six years later. He obtained this position without a Ph.D.

His contributions include the design of Floyd's algorithm, which efficiently finds all shortest paths in a graph, and work on parsing. In one isolated paper he introduced the important concept of error diffusion for rendering images, also called Floyd–Steinberg dithering (though he distinguished dithering from diffusion).

A significant achievement was pioneering the field of program verification using logical assertions with the 1967 paper Assigning Meanings to Programs. This was an important contribution to what later became Hoare logic.

Floyd worked closely with Donald Knuth, in particular as the major reviewer for Knuth's seminal book The Art of Computer Programming, and is the person most cited in that work. He was the co-author, with Richard Beigel, of the textbook The Language of Machines: an Introduction to Computability and Formal Languages (1994, W.H. Freeman and Company, ISBN 978-0716782667).

He received the Turing Award in 1978 "for having a clear influence on methodologies for the creation of efficient and reliable software, and for helping to found the following important subfields of computer science: the theory of parsing, the semantics of programming languages, automatic program verification, automatic program synthesis, and analysis of algorithms".

Floyd married and divorced twice, and had four children. His hobbies included backgammon and hiking.

External links and sources

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Robert W Floyd (June 8, 1936September 25, 2001) was an American computer scientist, and winner of the 1978 Turing Award.

Contents

Sourced

Assigning Meanings to Programs (1967)

Proceedings of Symposium on Applied Mathematics, Vol. 19, 1967, pp. 19–32[1]

  • The establishment of formal standards for proofs in about programs [...] and the proposal that the semantics of a programming language may be defined independently of all processors for that language, by establishing standards of rigor for proofs about programs in the language, appears to be novel.
    • pp. 19–20
  • A semantic definition of a particular set of command types, then, is a rule for constructing, for any command of one of these types, a verification condition on the antecedents and consequents.
    • p. 21 [italics in original, math symbols omitted]
  • It is, therefore, possible to extend a partially specified interpretation to a complete interpretation, without loss of verifiability, [...] This fact offers the possibility of automatic verification of programs, the programmer merely tagging entrances and one edge in each innermost loop.
    • p. 25

The Paradigms of Programming (1979)

1978 Turing Award Lecture[2], Communications of the ACM 22 (8), August 1979: pp. 455–460

  • If the advancement of the general art of programming requires the continuing invention and elaboration of paradigms, advancement of the art of the individual programmer requires that he expand his repertory of paradigms.
  • Although my own previous enthusiasm has been for syntactically rich languages like the Algol family, I now see clearly and concretely the force of Minsky's 1970 Turing lecture, in which he argued that Lisp's uniformity of structure and power of self reference gave the programmer capabilities whose content was well worth the sacrifice of visual form.
  • If there is ever a science of programming language design, it will probably consist largely of matching languages to the design methods they support.
  • If I ask another professor what he teaches in the introductory programming course, whether he answers proudly "Pascal" or diffidently "FORTRAN," I know that he is teaching a grammar, a set of semantic rules, and some finished algorithms, leaving the students to discover, on their own, some process of design.
  • To the designer of programming languages, I say: unless you can support the paradigms I use when I program, or at least support my extending your language into one that does support my programming methods, I don't need your shiny new languages. [...] To persuade me of the merit of your language, you must show me how to construct programs in it.

About Robert Floyd

  • For having a clear influence on methodologies for the creation of efficient and reliable software, and for helping to found the following important subfields of computer science: the theory of parsing, the semantics of programming languages, automatic program verification, automatic program synthesis, and analysis of algorithms.

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