MIT data storage researcher wins Alan Turing award, $1 million from Google

Michael Stonebraker was awarded the 2015 Commonwealth Award by MassTLC.
Michael Stonebraker was awarded the 2015 Commonwealth Award by MassTLC.

Michael Stonebraker, an MIT professor who did foundational research in database management systems, an industry that is now worth billions, was announced the winner of the Alan M. Turing award in computer science on Wednesday.

“I am absolutely thrilled. This is every computer scientist’s lifetime dream, and it came true for me,” Stonebraker, who was an early builder of database management systems, said.

In the absence of a prize from Stockholm, the computer science community regards the Turing Award, distributed by the Association for Computing Machinery, as the Nobel for the field. The award is funded by Google, and comes with a $1 million prize this year. Intel and Google used to share the award, at $250,000; when Google took sole responsibility of backing the prize last year, it quadrupled its value.

“Michael Stonebraker’s work is an integral part of how business gets done today,” ACM president Alexander Wolf said in a statement.

Stonebraker has conducted research and taught at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley.  He has open sourced all of his research, and turned some of that work into companies himself, as founder of nine companies in the Boston area. One of those, Vertica, was acquired by HP for $350 million 2011. Others include VoltDB, Tamr, and Paradigm4.

“I think in the case of Vertica I got most of it right. I made less mistakes and so I feel very proud of that system,” Stonebraker said.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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