John BackusJohn Backus was the developer of FORTRAN, for years one of the best known and most used programming systems in the world. He was an IBM programmer in New York City from 1950 to 1954; manager of programming research in New York City from 1954 to 1959; a staff member of IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., from 1959 to 1963; and an IBM Fellow in both Yorktown and San Jose, Calif., from 1963 into the 1990s.

When Backus and a small band of IBM colleagues began their quest in 1954 for a programing system that would enable a computer to produce its own machine language programs, they weren't always sure what they would come up with. In 1967, Backus remembered: "As we began to solve one problem, it split up into others we hadn't foreseen. In January 1955, we said we would have it in less than a year. Finally, we did it in 1957."

What Backus and his fellow workers had created was FORTRAN, the daddy of programming systems. That achievement won Backus the W. W. McDowell Award for outstanding contributions to the computer field from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1967. He also received the National Medal of Science, for pioneering contributions to computer programming languages, in 1975.

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