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2013 Turing Award winner Leslie Lamport. (Microsoft photo)

The 2013 A.M. Turing Award, the highest honor in computer science, has been given to Microsoft Research’s Leslie Lamport, whose behind-the-scenes work brought new levels of reliability and consistency to the distributed computing systems that power many of today’s most popular apps and services.

Lamport, 73, a Microsoft principal researcher based in Silicon Valley, is the fifth person from Microsoft Research to win the Turing Award, often described as the “Nobel Prize” of computer science.

In a statement released by the company this morning, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates called the award “a well-deserved recognition for a remarkable scientist.”

“As a leader in defining many of the key concepts of distributed computing that enable today’s mission-critical computer systems, Leslie has done great things not just for the field of computer science, but also in helping make the world a safer place,” Gates said. “Countless people around the world benefit from his work without ever hearing his name. I like to think this award is also recognition of the amazing work of Microsoft Research, which has become a great home for scientists and engineers who want to tackle the industry’s most difficult challenges.”

His work in distributed computing includes “Paxos,” an approach that lets a computer network continue to operate coherently even when parts of the system fail, by transferring leadership roles among different machines. Microsoft notes that Lamport’s paper from 1978, Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed Systemis one of the most widely cited in computer science.

For more, read this Microsoft feature story on Lamport, and the official citation from the Association for Computing Machinery.

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