History's 15 most popular computer scientists

The MIT Media Lab uses Wikipedia data to rank which computer scientists have made the biggest impressions globally over time

Photo of a sculpture of Alan Turing

Researcher’s at MIT’s Media Lab have launched a new project called Pantheon, in which they attempt to quantify the cultural impact of people throughout time. Using data from Wikipedia, they’ve developed a Historical Popularity Index (HPI) to rank more than 11,000 famous names from the past and present. HPI is based on a number of things, including the number of languages in which one’s Wikipedia bio exists and the number and distribution of page views to those bio pages. While famous techies still generally score much lower HPIs than actors, athletes and artists, 34 computer scientists did make the list. Here are the 15 most well-known computer scientists in history, based on their HPI scores.

Photo of Ward Cunningham
15. Ward Cunningham

Country of birth: United States

Born: May 26, 1949

Claim to fame: Creator of the first wiki

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 39

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 1.05 million

Historical Popularity Index: 22.395

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

A portrait of Jérôme Lalande
Credit: André Pujos
14. Jérôme Lalande

Country of birth: France

Born: July 11, 1732

Died: April 4, 1807

Claim to fame: One of the world’s first “human computers”

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 26

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 0.18 million

Historical Popularity Index: 22.734

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Linus Torvalds
Credit: REUTERS/Jarno Mela/Lehtikuva
13. Linus Torvalds

Country of birth: Finland

Born: December 28, 1969

Claim to fame: Creator of Linux operating system and Git, the version control system

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 94

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 6.49 million

Historical Popularity Index: 22.753

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Ken Thompson
12. Ken Thompson

Country of birth: United States

Born: February 4, 1943

Claim to fame: One of the creators of Unix; creator of B programming language and the UTF-8 character encoding scheme

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 40

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 1.44 million

Historical Popularity Index: 23.216

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Edgar Codd
Credit: IBM
11. Edgar F. Codd

Country of birth: United Kingdom

Born: August 19, 1923

Died: April 18, 2003

Claim to fame: Developed the concept of relational databases

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 32

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 0.82 million

Historical Popularity Index: 23.258

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of John Backus
10. John Backus

Country of birth: United States

Born: December 3, 1924

Died: March 17, 2007

Claims to fame: Led the team that created Fortran

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 37

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 0.47 million

Historical Popularity Index: 23.272

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Marvin Minsky
9. Marvin Minsky

Country of birth: United States

Born: August 9, 1927

Claim to fame: Co-founder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 35

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 1.12 million

Historical Popularity Index: 23.312

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Tim Berners-Lee
Credit: REUTERS/Vincent West
8. Tim Berners-Lee

Country of birth: United Kingdom

Born: June 8, 1955

Claim to fame: Inventor of the World Wide Web

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 98

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 9.66 million

Historical Popularity Index: 23.588

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Niklaus Wirth
Credit: Zvezdica2816
7. Niklaus Wirth

Country of birth: Switzerland

Born: February 15, 1935

Claim to fame: Creator of Pascal programming language

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 35

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 0.76 million

Historical Popularity Index: 23.633

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Andrew S. Tanenbaum
6. Andrew S. Tanenbaum

Country of birth: United States

Born: March 16, 1944

Claim to fame: Creator of MINIX, a free, Unix-like operating system used primarily for teaching

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 35

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 1.15 million

Historical Popularity Index: 23.851

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Donald Knuth
5. Donald Knuth

Country of birth: United States

Born: January 10, 1938

Claim to fame: Author of The Art of Computer Programming (a multi-volume set still being written) about the analysis of programming algorithms

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 62

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 2.13 million

Historical Popularity Index: 24.541

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Portrait of Claude Elwood Shannon
4. Claude Elwood Shannon

Country of birth: United States

Born: April 30, 1916

Died: February 24, 2001

Claim to fame: Known as the “Father of Information Theory”; also developed the basic theory underlying electronic digital computers

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 45

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 2.36 million

Historical Popularity Index: 24.615

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Edsger Dijkstra
3. Edsger Dijkstra

Country of birth: Netherlands

Born: May 11, 1930

Died: August 6, 2002

Claim to fame: Co-creator of the compiler for ALGOL60, the first compiler to support recursion; coined the computer terms “vector” and “stack

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 47

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 1.40 million

Historical Popularity Index: 24.685

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Richard Stallman
2. Richard Stallman

Country of birth: United States

Born: March 16, 1953

Claim to fame: Author of Emacs, founder of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 89

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 5.61 million

Historical Popularity Index: 24.774

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon

Photo of Alan Turing
1. Alan Turing

Country of birth: United Kingdom

Born: June 23, 192

Died: June 7, 1954

Claim to fame: Known as the Father of Computer Science and famed cryptanalyst

Number of Wikipedia language editions bio appears in: 108

Total Wikipedia pageviews Jan 2008 - Dec 2013: 18 million

Historical Popularity Index: 24.989

Source: MIT Media Lab/Pantheon