Knuth Prize

The Donald E. Knuth Prize for outstanding contributions to the foundations of computer science is awarded for major research accomplishments and contributions to the foundations of computer science over an extended period of time. The Prize is awarded annually by the IEEE Technical Committee on the Mathematical Foundations of Computing (TCMF) and the ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT).

Nomination Procedure

Anyone in the Theoretical Computer Science community may nominate a candidate. Nominations for the 2019 Knuth Prize were due on February 15, 2019. The nomination should state the nominee’s name, summarize his or her contributions in one or two pages, provide a CV for the nominee or a pointer to the nominee’s web page, and give telephone and email contact information for the nominator. Any supporting letters from other members of the community (up to a limit of 5) should be included in the package that the nominator sends to the Committee chair.

Supporting letters should contain substantial information not in the nomination. Others may endorse the nomination simply by adding their names to the nomination letter. If you have nominated a candidate in past years, you can re-nominate the candidate by sending a message to that effect to the above address. (You may revise the nominating materials if you so desire.)

Selection Criteria

The winner is selected by a Prize Committee consisting of six people appointed by the SIGACT and TCMF Chairs, see below for the composition of the committee. All nominations will be considered by the Committee, including those submitted in previous years, but nomination is not a requirement to receive the Prize. Note that the Knuth Prize is awarded to a single individual each year. Nominations of groups of researchers will not be considered.

In selecting the Knuth Prize winner, the Committee pays particular attention to a sustained record of high-impact, seminal contributions to the foundations of computer science. The selection may also be partly based on educational accomplishments and contributions such as fundamental textbooks and high-quality students. The award is not based on service work for the community, although service might be included in the citation for a winner if it is appropriate.

The 2019 prize committee included: Avrim Blum (TTIC, Chair), Alan Frieze (CMU), Shafi Goldwasser (UC Berkeley), Noam Nisan (Hebrew U.), Ronitt Rubinfeld (MIT and Tel Aviv U.), and Andy Yao (Tsinghua U.).

About the Award

The first Knuth Prize was presented at the 1996 ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC). Prize presentations now alternate between STOC in odd years and the IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS) in even years. The winner is invited to give a lecture at the conference.

About Donald E. Knuth

The prize is named in honor and recognition of the extraordinary accomplishments of Prof. Donald Knuth, Emeritus at Stanford University. Prof. Knuth is best known for his ongoing multivolume series, The Art of Computer Programming, which has played a critical role in establishing and defining Computer Science as a rigorous, intellectual discipline. Prof. Knuth has also made fundamental contributions to the subfields of analysis of algorithms, compilers, string matching, term-rewriting systems, literate programming, and typography. His TeX and MF systems are widely accepted as standards for electronic typesetting. Prof. Knuth’s work is distinguished by its integration of theoretical analyses and practical, real-world concerns. In his work, theory and practice are not separate components of Computer Science but rather inexorably linked branches of the same whole.

Read more about the award

Past Winners

  • 2019: Avi Wigderson
  • 2018: Johan Håstad
  • 2017: Oded Goldreich
  • 2016: Noam Nisan
  • 2015: László Babai
  • 2014: Richard J. Lipton
  • 2013: Gary L. Miller
  • 2012: Leonid Levin
  • 2011: Ravi Kannan
  • 2010: David S. Johnson
  • 2008: Volker Strassen
  • 2007: Nancy Lynch
  • 2005: Mihalis Yannakakis
  • 2003: Miklos Ajtai
  • 2002: Christos Papadimitriou
  • 2000: Jeffrey D. Ullman
  • 1999: László Lovász
  • 1997: Leslie G. Valiant
  • 1996: Andrew C.-C. Yao