Computers

The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time 

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Updated October 26, 2019 8.7k votes 1.7k voters 142.1k views 52 items

The most influential software programmers of all time are the innovative and brilliant men and women who each contributed something ground-breaking to the software programming world. These are the pioneers of programming all having created, evolved or improved upon the foundations of modern computer programming. Plain and simple, without these software programming legends, computers, the Internet and many of your favorite programs would never exist.

Selecting which software programmer is the absolute most influential is often a chicken and egg conundrum. Without the early programming languages like FORTRAN, created by John Backus, or the C programming language, created by Dennis Ritchie, newer languages would never exist. But newer programmers, such as Tim Berners-Lee, who created HTML, James Gosling, who created Java, or Rasmus Lerdorf, who created PHP, improved upon those early innovations to create bigger and better things.

Others might argue that it's not the programming language authors that should be considered the most influential but those who used programming to make computer science accessible to the average person. Microsoft, co-founded by the famous Bill Gates, changed the world, as did Google, created by the team of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But is their influence on the tech world more important than that of the software language creators? Are they among the greatest programmers of all time?

Who are the most famous computer programmers? In the end, software programming and the Internet was not created overnight and certainly not by one person or company. It's a combination of each software programmer's innovations that has brought us to where we are today. The great thing about programming is that it's always evolving and improving. Who knows, maybe the most influential software programmer ever hasn't even discovered his or her big thing yet. Until then, vote on which notable software programmer you think is the most influential of all time.

Check out more lists like the top game programmers, the best hackers of all time, and the most influential tech bloggers
list ordered by
1
Dennis Ritchie is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Dennis Ritchie Dec. at 70 (1941-2011) from Bronxville, New York
C programming language creator
2
Linus Torvalds is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 49 from Helsinki, Finland
Linus kernel creator
3
Donald Knuth is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Donald Knuth Age 81 from Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Father of the analysis of algorithms
4
Bjarne Stroustrup is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 68 from Aarhus, Denmark
C++ creator
5
Tim Berners-Lee is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 63 from London, United Kingdom
HTML and world wide web inventor
6
Guido van Rossum is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 63 from Netherlands
Python creator
7
Ken Thompson is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 76 from New Orleans, Louisiana
UNIX co-creator
8
Brian Kernighan is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 77 from Toronto, Canada
UNIX co-creator
9
Ada Lovelace is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Dec. at 37 (1815-1852) from London, United Kingdom
World's first computer programmer
10
James Gosling is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 63 from Calgary, Canada
Java creator
11
Larry Page is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 45 from East Lansing, Michigan
Google co-founder
12
Richard Stallman is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 65 from Manhattan, New York City, New York
GNU Project creator
13
Larry Wall is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 64 from Los Angeles, California
Perl creator
14
Grace Hopper is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
J.l.Quelch added Dec. at 86 (1906-1992) from New York City, New York

COBOL creator

15
Edsger W. Dijkstra is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
JeffDarcy added Dec. at 72 (1930-2002) from Rotterdam, Netherlands
16
Anders Hejlsberg is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 58 from Copenhagen, Denmark
Turbo Pascal author
17
Niklaus Wirth is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 85 from Switzerland, European Free Trade Association, Winterthur District, Winterthur, Canton of Zurich
Pascal designer
18
Sergey Brin is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 45 from Moscow, Russia
Google co-founder
19
Bram Cohen is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
BitTorrent creator
20
Brendan Eich is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 58 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JavaScript creator
21
Elon Musk is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
AtipatWattanuntachai added Age 47 from Pretoria, South Africa
Paypal creator
 
22
Michael Widenius is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
arun added Age 56 from Helsinki, Finland
MySQL creator
23
Rasmus Lerdorf is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 50 from Qeqertarsuaq, Denmark
PHP creator
24
John Backus is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Dec. at 83 (1924-2007) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
FORTRAN creator
25
John D. Carmack is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Age 48 from Roeland Park, Kansas
id Software co-founder