Person: Backus, John Warner
John Backus was an American mathematician best known for the invention of FORTRAN and for the BNF notation for describing the syntax of a programming language.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- John spent his first years in Wilmington, Delaware and then attended the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
- The Battle of the Bulge, the major German offensive in December 1944, saw the largest number of American casualties in the war and many of Backus's friends were killed.
- As a consequence, Backus entered Columbia University, New York, to study mathematics.
- The test was a puzzle set by Robert R Seeber, known as Rex, and after Backus solved it he was offered a job on the spot.
- Backus joined IBM as a programmer in the Pure and Applied Science Departments in 1950.
- Understanding the difficulties of programming, Backus invented a program he named Speedcoding.
- The team, appointed by Backus to assist him develop FORTRAN whose specifications he had already drawn up, was headed by Backus.
- In 1959 he invented what is now called the Backus Naur Form (BNF), a standard notation to describe the syntax of a high level programming language.
- Let us return to give a few more details of Backus's personal life.
- Just before they split up, Marjorie introduced Backus to Barbara Una Stannard (1927-2004) who was born Barbara Garlitz.
- Backus received many honours for his outstanding contributions to computer science.
- Backus was also an opponent of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative set up in 1984.
Born 3 December 1924, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Died 17 March 2007, Ashland, Jackson, Oregon, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive