Since my first programming class in high school, I’ve always wondered about the people behind popular programming languages. This article provides a high-level overview of the individuals behind the most popular languages of 2020 according to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey.
I’ve chosen a subset of those languages where there is a clear sole contributor rather than a large corporation. It should also go without saying that scaling, maintenance, and encouraging the adoption of a programming language isn’t an individual task; all of the languages below now have much larger communities supporting the development.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee / HTML
Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee is an English computer scientist best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, the world’s first web browser, and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. He is a Professorial Fellow of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s also the director of the World Wide Web Consortium which oversees the development of the Web. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 and has been named in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century.
Guido van Rossum / Python
Guido van Rossum is a Dutch programmer best known as the author of the Python programming language. He is currently a member of the Python Steering Council, a Fellow of the Computer History Museum, and is currently employed with Dropbox. In implementing Python, Van Rossum built off of lessons learned in developing the ABC programming language earlier in his career. Python started in December 1989 as a “hobby programming project” over the Christmas holidays.
James Gosling / Java
James Gosling, a.k.a Dr.Java, is a Candian computer scientist and is best known as the founder and lead designer of Java at Sun Microsystems. Gosling would continue to work for Sun from 1984 to 2010. Gosling also created Gosling Emacs and an early Unix windowing system called NeWS. He is the recipient of the IEEE John von Neumann Medal and is also a Computer History Museum Fellow for his work on the conception, design, and implementation of the Java language.
Rasmus Lerdorf / PHP
Rasmus Lerdorf is a Danish-Canadian programmer and is credited as the lead author of the PHP scripting language (1995). Though future versions of PHP have been led by developers like Jim Winstead, Stig Bakken, Andi Gutmans, and Zeev Suraski, Lerdorf is still an activity contributor to the project. Over his career, Rasmus has also contributed to the development of the Apache HTTP server. In 2003, Lerdorf was named in MIT Technology Review as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35. He is currently a Distinguished Engineer at Etsy.
Bjarne Stroustrup / C++
Bjarne Stroustrup is a Danish computer scientist most well-known for his creation and development of the C++ programming language. Currently, he is both a visiting professor at Columbia University and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley. Stroustrup was previously the head of AT&T Bell Labs Programming Research department. Since creating C++, Bjarne has been elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is also a Fellow of the Computer History Museum.
Dennis Ritchie / C & UNIX
Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie was an American computer scientist most well-known for creating the C programming language and his contributions to the Unix operating system and the B programming language (alongside Ken Thompson). Dennis is also known for co-authoring the book The C Programming Language with Brian Kernighan. The C language is widely used in application, embedded systems, and operating system development. Its influence can be seen in many modern programming languages. Ritchie (and Thompson) received the Turing Award for their work on Unix and general operating system theory development. Additionally, Ritchie received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Both Ritchie and Thompson are Fellows of the Computer History Museum. In 1999, both of them would receive the National Medal of Technology “for co-creation of the UNIX operating system, and for development of the C programming language”.
Yukihiro Matsumoto / Ruby
Yukihiro Matsumoto is a Japanese computer scientist known for leading the design of the Ruby programming language. He also has the reputation of being extremely nice resulting in a motto in the Ruby community: “Matz is nice and so we are nice” [MINASWAN]. Most recently, Matsumoto was the Chief Architect of Ruby at Heroku in San Francisco. In 2011, Matsumoto received the Award for the Advancement of Free Software from the Free Software Foundation.