Luca Cardelli Gains SIGPLAN Award
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 01 February 2016

Luca Cardelli, Assistant Director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK is the 2015 recipient of the ACM SIGPLAN Programming Languages Achievement Award for his exceptional contributions to the field of programming languages.



This annual award, which includes a prize of $5,000, is under the auspices of  the Association of Computing Machinery, the foremost membership society for computer professionals. It comes from the Special Interest Group for Programming Languages and recognises significant and lasting contributions made as a single event or over a lifetime.

Previous recipients include Tony Hoare (2011), Barbara Liskov (2008), Nikluas Wirth (2007), John Backus (2004), and John McCarthy (2002).

The citation in respect of Luca Cardelli includes the following:

His contributions span many areas: software; language design, including experimental languages; programming language foundations; and the interaction of programming languages and biology.

He is a leading language designer. He was one of the designers of Modula-3, which played a major role in popularising the notion of type-safe programming, and was a key influence on Java and C#. Thus, his work helped lay the foundations for today’s near-universal industrial acceptance of type-safe programming languages. 

His most sustained research activity has been in establishing the semantic and type-theoretic foundations of programming languages. Two of his most prominent works are his 1985 paper “On understanding types, data abstraction, and polymorphism” (with Wegner) and his 1996 book “A Theory of Objects” (with Abadi). Other important works of his concern the semantics of multiple inheritance in object-oriented languages and explicit substitutions in the lambda-calculus.

Cardelli attended the University of Pisa in his native Italy before earning his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1982. At the start of his career he worked for Bell Labs and Digital Equipment Corporation, making contributions to Unix software, before joining Microsoft Research in 1997. 

The citation continues:

More recently, he has focused on modeling global and mobile computation, via the Ambient Calculus and spatial logics. His work pioneered an influential way of describing, programming, and reasoning about global and mobile computation, in terms of formal calculi and language constructs. It also connected with an important line of work on semi-structured data, and led, indirectly, to his current interest in biology and stochastic systems.




His Microsoft Research webpage lists his current interests as: Molecular Programming, Systems Biology, Natural Computation, Quantitative Semantics. He is also Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford Department of Computer Science.

This latest award is not the first time that Cardelli's contributions have been acknowledged. He was inducted as a Fellow of the ACM in 2004 and in 2007 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Also in 2007 he was awarded the Senior Dahl-Nygaard prize, considered the most prestigious award in object-oriented computer science. 


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