Computers

The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time  

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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
Harvard University
C programming language creator
2
Linus Torvalds is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of Helsinki
Linus kernel creator
3
Donald Knuth is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
California Institute of Technology, Case Institute of Technology
Father of the analysis of algorithms
4
Ken Thompson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of California, Berkeley
UNIX co-creator
5
Bjarne Stroustrup is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of Cambridge, Churchill College, Cambridge
C++ creator
6
Tim Berners-Lee is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Emanuel School, The Queen's College, Oxford
HTML and world wide web inventor
7
Brian Kernighan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of Toronto, Princeton University
UNIX co-creator
8
Ada Lovelace is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of London
World's first computer programmer
9
Guido van Rossum is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Universiteit van Amsterdam
Python creator
10
Richard Stallman is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University
GNU Project creator
11
James Gosling is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of Calgary, Carnegie Mellon University
Java creator
12
Grace Hopper is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
J.l.Quelch added Wardlaw-Hartridge School, Yale University, Vassar College

COBOL creator

13
Edsger W. Dijkstra is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
JeffDarcy added Leiden University, Gymnasium Erasmianum
14
Larry Page is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Stanford University, University of Michigan, Montessori Radmoor
Google co-founder
15
Niklaus Wirth is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
ETH Zurich, University of California, Berkeley
Pascal designer
16
Larry Wall is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Seattle Pacific University, University of California, Berkeley
Perl creator
17
Phil Katz is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
evilgrin32 added Nicolet High School, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Creator of the ZIP archive format
 
18
Brendan Eich is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Santa Clara University
JavaScript creator
19
Bram Cohen is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Stuyvesant High School, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
BitTorrent creator
20
John D. Carmack is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Shawnee Mission East High School, University of Missouri–Kansas City
id Software co-founder
21
John Backus is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
The Hill School, Columbia University, University of Virginia
FORTRAN creator
22
Michael Widenius is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
arun added Helsinki University of Technology
MySQL creator
23
Anders Hejlsberg is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
Technical University of Denmark
Turbo Pascal author
24
Sergey Brin is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
University of Maryland, College Park, Stanford University
Google co-founder
25
Martin Fowler is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time
evilgrin32 added University College London