12 Greatest Programmers of all Time

12 Greatest Programmers of all Time

A programmer is a person who can create and modify computer programs. No matter what type of programmer one may be, each and every contributes something to the society, no matter how trivial. Yet, there are those few who have contributed beyond what a single programmer usually does in an entire lifetime. These programmers are pioneers in their respective areas and have each contributed something that has completely changed the way human’s access information and media. So without further ado, here we present the 12 greatest programmers of all time:


12. Ada Lovelace

Augusta Ada King, more commonly known as Ada Lovelace, was an English mathematician and the world’s first computer programmer and was chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. The notes she created for the Analytical Engine include what is recognized as the very first algorithm created solely for the intent of being processed by a machine or in other words, the world’s first computer program.

Ada was a gifted girl from the beginning with an uncommon mindset who predicted that one day computers would transcend from simply being used for crunching numbers — totally against the popular opinion of that time. Ada’s main inspiration came from her father and without her, who knows how long it would take for another person to design a computer program.


11. Niklaus Wirth

Niklaus Emil Wirth is a Swiss computer scientist who is regarded as a pioneer of computer programming among other fields in software engineering. He is best known for designing several programming languages, including the highly popular Pascal, Euler, Algol W, Modula, Modula-2, Oberon, Oberon-2, and Oberon-07. He also designed the simple programming language PL/0 to illustrate compiler design which formed the basis for many university compiler design classes.

Niklaus had previously worked on part of the design and implementation team for the Lilith and Oberon operating systems as well as the Lola digital hardware design and simulation system. Wirth’s pioneering work and development of innovative computer languages helped him win the prestigious Turing Award in 1984.


10. Bill Gates


Arguably one of the most popular computer programmers of all time, Bill Gates is an American business magnate, computer programmer, PC pioneer, investor, and philanthropist. He is the co-founder, ex-executive officer and current chairman of Microsoft, which is the world’s largest personal-computer software company. He is the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution and helped develop Windows, which is the most used operating system in the world.

For the first 5 years at Microsoft, aside from handling the business side of the company, Gates also personally oversaw every single code that the company sent out, often fixing ones he deemed incorrect or buggy. Aside from his programming skills, he is widely praised for his generosity and keen investment planning, but is highly criticized due to his anti-competitive business tactics.


9. James Gosling

James Arthur Gosling is a Canadian computer scientist and an officer of the order of Canada. He has coded quite a number of programs but is widely known for his creation of the highly successful and commonly used Java programming language in 1994 as well as its original virtual machine and compiler. He credits his creation towards his graduate student days where he created a p-code virtual machine for the lab’s DEC VAX computer, so that his professor could run UCSD Pascal programs and then realized that the architecture-neutral execution for widely distributed programs could be achieved by a similar technique.

James has also made major contributions to several other software systems, such as NeWS and Gosling Emacs. Due to his extra-ordinary achievements Gosling was elected to Foreign Associate member of the United States National Academy of Engineering.


8. Guido van Rossum

Guido van Rossum is a Dutch computer programmer who is the author of the popular Python programming language that is wildly used today. His creation of Python lead him to being declared a “Benevolent Dictator For Life” the In the Python community which means that he continues to oversee the Python development process, making decisions where necessary, forever.

Rossum had developed Python while working at Google, where he also created Mondrian (a code review system internally used by the Google) and Rietveld. After working for Google for 7 years, he is now working at Dropbox. Rossum has been recognized as a distinguished engineer by the Association for Computing Machinery and also received the NLUUG Award in May 2003.


7. Ken Thompson


Kenneth Lane Thompson, or simply “Ken” as he is called by the hacker community, is an American pioneer of computer science. Thompson had designed and implemented the original Unix operating system and also invented the B programming language (the direct predecessor to the famous C programming language), and was one of the early developers of the Plan 9 operating systems.

Since 2006, Thompson has also co-invented the Go programming language while working at Google. Ken’s other contributions included his work on regular expressions, early computer text editors QED and ed, the definition of the UTF-8 encoding, and even his work on computer chess that included creation of endgame tablebases and the chess machine Belle.


6. Donald Knuth

Donald Ervin Knuth is an American computer scientist and mathematician as well as a Professor Emeritus (retired professor) at Stanford University. Knuth has been dubbed as the “Father of the Analysis of Algorithms” as he has contributed to the development of rigorous analysis of the computational complexity of algorithms and systematized formal mathematical techniques for it.

Knuth has also popularized the asymptotic notation and he is also the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system and the METAFONT font definition language and rendering system. He has contributed to several branches of theoretical computer science and has also created the Computer Modern family of typefaces.


5. Brian Kernighan

Brian Wilson Kernighan is a Canadian computer scientist who worked at Bell Labs alongside Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. He is the co-creator and developer of UNIX. He is also co-author of the AWK and AMPL programming languages. Kernighan is currently a Professor and the Undergraduate Department Representative at the Computer Science Department of Princeton University.

Kernighan became famous by co-authoring the very first book on the C programming language and by authoring many UNIX programs such as ditroff, and cron for Version 7 Unix. His other notable work include his popular criticisms for Pascal called “Why Pascal is Not My Favorite Programming Language”.


4. Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee is a British computer scientist who is renowned all across the globe because of his creation of the World Wide Web as well as the implementation of the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet in November, 1989.

Tim has won multiple awards for his pioneering ingeniousness such as becoming one of only six members of the World Wide Web Hall of Fame and one of five Internet and Web pioneers who have been awarded the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. He is also the holder of the Founders Chair at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.


3. Bjarne Stroustrup

Bjarne Stroustrup is a Danish computer scientist who is credited for the creation and the development of the widely used and highly successful C++ programming language. He not only invented it, but also evolved it, all by himself, by writing its early definitions, producing its first implementation, formulating its design criteria, designing all its major facilities, processing extension proposals for standards committee and its standard textbook.

Bjarne is currently working as a Professor and holder of the College of Engineering Chair in Computer Science at Texas A&M University.


2. Linus Torvalds

Linus Benedict Torvalds s a Finnish American software engineer, who was the principal driving force behind the development of the Linux kernel. Its creation itself is attributed towards him and he later became the chief architect of the Linux kernel, and is now the project’s coordinator.

Linus was honored with the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize by the Technology Academy Finland because of his creation of a new open source operating system for computers leading to the wide spread use of Linux kernel. He also created the ever popular distrbuted version control system called Git in 2005,as well as the diving log software Subsurface.


1. Dennis Ritchie

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie was an American computer scientist who is credited for shaping and pioneering the digital era. He created the most commonly used C programming language that is used today in various software applications, embedded system development, operating systems, and has influenced most modern programming languages.

Dennis also co-created the UNIX operating system. For his work, in 1983 he received the Turing Award from the ACM, the Hamming Medal in 1990 from the IEEE and in 1999 the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton. He was the head of Lucent Technologies System Software Research Department when he retired in 2007. He passed away on October 12, 2011 causing the Fedora 16 Linux distribution to be released in his memory.


Which of the above mentioned greatest programmers of all time has influenced you the most? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Comments: 44

  1. Michael K. Clifford says:

    I think Woz is #1…wrote code for the richest company in the world

    • Dkong says:

      I’m surprised that Anders Hejlsberg is not on this list. Indeed another great Danish mind.

    • Thomas Madia says:

      I am also surprised why Anders didn’t make it to the list. I will also put Anders on number two on the list.

    • MAR Hipokrito says:

      Because He is involve in Microsoft. 😀

    • Vikash Singh says:

      Dennis Ritchie was one of the best programmer in the whole world.

    • I_Am_Black says:

      Mark Zbikowski is the best in my opinion

    • Panyin says:

      James Gosling

    • It’s hard to see how anyone could rank these programmers without an intimate familiarity with the code they have written, which, presumably, nobody has. I am not convinced that Bill Gates, genius though he undoubtedly is, ranks in this pantheon, nor Tim Berners-Lee.

      Edsger Dijkstra was a pioneer, who surely contributed a great deal to establishing computer science as a proper academic discipline. I don’t really know whether he was a truly great programmer.

      I am very surprised that Richard Stallman, is omitted from this list. As the developer of Emacs, gcc, and much of GNU, he should surely be included, even if, these days, he is more of an advocate of free software than a programmer.

    • John says:

      Bill gates should definitely not be on this list.

    • I will never be in this list huebr

    • Noman Ali says:

      I think this list should be complete when you write about Steve jobs

    • John says:

      Jobs was good at some things, but not writing software!

    • rapgod says:

      I guess vivek kuduva is the best programmer in the world.

    • craigvn says:

      I don’t think Steve Jobs wrote a line of code in his life. Maybe he typed in some of those BASIC programs in the back of the magazine.

    • Zeppo says:

      Why would Jobs be anywhere near a list of great coders? As it can be difficult to tell in text, I suppose we can do you the credit of assuming you were being sarcastic.

    • Albacrozz says:

      Very big humans, so stop now this german programming for kids. thats absurd.

    • not spam lol says:





    • Krishna Das says:

      Where is Richard Stallman?

    • Timothy Prime says:

      I am confused, did Bill Gates create any code?

    • John says:

      Bill gates was a talented and capable software developer when he was very young, but he doesn’t belong on this list. His accomplishments demonstrated business cunning, not software skill.

    • Bill-D says:

      I have the highest respect for them all. I have been slinging c and c++ code for a long time, and as I contemplate the intellect to create languages used the world over, I am awed and humbled. Rock on brother coders!

    • alamin says:

      i will come on top 10 programmer list.every body pray for me.

    • John says:

      You want to come on the top of 10 programmers?

    • migrel says:

      The programmer that has influenced my life and my IT world in general is Linus Benedict Torvalds.From his free source code, i can pretty much do my own work and probably anything i wanna do,although many are free out there,but his Algorithms influenced me a lot more.Notwithstanding all the above are great programmers(world changers) in the IT and the life of at least 3 in 5 individual in the world.
      Thank you.

    • Gog says:

      Denis Ritchie, was a nice bloke to meet as well as an inspiring programmer.

    • Manish says:

      Hack_God should be in the list…

    • Pratap says:

      Yes, Hack_God should be in the list…

    • Siddhant says:

      Yes, i agree with Pratap and Manish

    • Soham says:

      Hack_God is No.1 programmer…+Pratap

    • Kalpesh says:

      I’m surprised that Hack_God is not on this list…

    • Nirbhay says:

      Who is Hack_God?

    • Kalpesh says:

      Hack_God is God of Hackers….
      Search “Hack_God” and go to images then see the first image that is Hack_God…

    • ksandvik says:

      Kick Bill Gates out from that group.

    • Ted Rand says:

      where is jream on this list?

    • Rx says:

      Stallman not on the list? Torvalds above Keringham and Knuth? BILL FUCKING GATES? Kill yourself. Just kill yourself.

    • afr0ck says:

      Where the hell is Richard Stallman???? i totally agree with the list above but including Richard Stallman.

    • Matthew Blott says:

      Lists like this are alway subjective but it is possible to compile them with a more scientific approach than has been attempted here. Bill Gates is a far better entrepreneur than programmer for example. I also fail to see how a list that excludes Grace Hopper can be taken seriously. She invented Cobol – the first popular human readable language that revolutionised business and is still widely used today.

    • Fabio says:

      This list is stupid, put Bill Gates but not John Carmack ???

    • Husinnee Rayhdez Love says:

      Dennis Ritchie was base

    • Brenton Horne says:

      Bram Moolenar is also a great programmer and should be on the list, I would argue in place of Bill Gates. I’m also arguing in my mind whether Bill Joy should take James Gosling’s place, as Joy had a role in Java’s development (like Gosling), worked on BSD and had an influence on AT&T UNIX’s development.

    • Garth Eaglesfield says:

      Ahoy there! What about Grace Hopper? And by the way to you lot that’s Admiral Grace Hopper! They call her the mother of COBOL which in fact means she’s the mother of commercial programming. Get her into the list!

    • What about Robert Cecil “Uncle Bob” Martin?

    • Sir Dennis Ritchie is the best, he was, so we are advanced in technology, without his research, we still have binary codes to read.

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