Dr. Barbara Liskov, Professor of Engineering at MIT, has recently been ranked as one of the most influential women engineers across the globe. With a career spanning several decades, Dr. Liskov’s groundbreaking contributions to computer science have left an unassailable impact on both academia and engineering.

Dr. Liskov earned her BA in mathematics with a minor in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1961. In 1968 she graduated from Stanford, becoming one of the first women in the United States to be awarded a Ph.D. from a computer science department. At Stanford, she worked with John McCarthy to research artificial intelligence (AI). The topic of her Ph.D. thesis was a computer program that could be utilized to win chess games. She studied chess strategy from library books and translated game strategy into algorithms. The measurement of early AI success was its ability to think like a human would. Since then, AI has certainly evolved and so has Dr. Liskov’s view of problem solving with algorithms. She acknowledges that while machine learning is a great tool, it is not a human substitute, stating that “AI is an application rather than a core discipline.” 

Dr. Liskov’s subsequent work has mainly been in the area of distributed systems, including database systems, garbage collection, caching, persistence, recovery, and fault tolerance. Her work has been pivotal to computer programming and the technology world as a whole, eventually earning her an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2012.

Beyond her technical achievements, Dr. Liskov has made significant contributions to promoting inclusivity and diversity in the field of engineering. She has been a strong advocate for gender equality and has actively mentored and supported aspiring engineers, particularly women, encouraging their participation and advancement in the technology industry. Through her leadership and advocacy, Dr. Liskov has helped create a more inclusive and equitable tech community.