Robert W Floyd (June 8, 1936 – September 25, 2001) was an eminent computer scientist.
Born in New York, Floyd finished school at age 14. At the University of Chicago, he received a Bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1953 (when still only 17) and a second Bachelor's degree in physics in 1958.
Becoming a computer operator in the early 1960s, he began publishing many noteworthy papers and was appointed an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University by the time he was 27 and became a full professor at Stanford University six years later. He obtained this position without a Ph.D.
His contributions include the design of Floyd's algorithm, which efficiently finds all shortest paths in a graph, and work on parsing. In one isolated paper he introduced the important concept of error diffusion for rendering images, also called Floyd-Steinberg dithering (though he distinguished dithering from diffusion).
A significant achievement was pioneering the field of program verification using logical assertions with the 1967 paper Assigning Meanings to Programs. This was an important contribution to what later became Hoare logic.
Floyd worked closely with Donald Knuth, in particular as the major reviewer for Knuth's seminal book The Art of Computer Programming, and is the person most cited in that work. He was the co-author, with Richard Beigel, of the textbook The Language of Machines: an Introduction to Computability and Formal Languages (1994, W.H. Freeman and Company, ISBN 978-0716782667).
He received the Turing Award in 1978 "for having a clear influence on methodologies for the creation of efficient and reliable software, and for helping to found the following important subfields of computer science: the theory of parsing, the semantics of programming languages, automatic program verification, automatic program synthesis, and analysis of algorithms".
Floyd married and divorced twice, and had four children. His hobbies included backgammon and hiking.
Links and sources
* R.W. Floyd, "Assigning Meaning to Programs", in Proceedings of Symposium on Applied Mathematics, Vol. 19, J.T. Schwartz (Ed.), A.M.S., 1967, pp. 19-32
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