John Backus

Updated: 09/15/2017 by Computer Hope

John BackusName: John Backus

Born: December 3, 1924, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Death: March 17, 2007 (Age: 83)

Computer-related contributions

  • American computer scientist.
  • Directed the team that invented the first widely used high-level programming language (FORTRAN).
  • Inventor of the Backus-Naur form (BNF), the almost universally used notation to define formal language syntax.
  • Known for Speedcoding; FORTRAN; ALGOL; Backus-Naur form; Function-level programming.

Honors and awards

  • Named an IBM Fellow (1963).
  • Awarded W.W. McDowell Award (1967).
  • Received National Medal of Science (1975).
  • Awarded ACM Turing Award (1977).
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1985).
  • Awarded degree honoris causa from the Universit√© Henri Poincar√© (1989).
  • Awarded Draper Prize (1993).
  • Awarded Computer History Museum Fellow Award (1997).
  • Asteroid 6830 Johnbackus named in his honor (2007).


"They don't like thinking in medical school. They memorize - that's all they want you to do. You must not think."

"Much of my work comes from being lazy."