John W. Backus


John W. Backus was born in Delaware in 1924 and died in Oregon when he was 82. is a very inspirational man who achieved much in his lifetime. He grew up in a wealthy household and was given the best education money could buy. However, his schooling career wasn't very smooth. In fact, Mr. Backus was not a good student. He ended up getting expelled from University of Virginia after a series of unfortunate incidents, which led to his decision to join the army. He worked hard while in the army and many doors and opportunities opened for him. He went to school again to study medicine; however, he realized it wasn't the road he wanted to follow in life. After working some in New York, Backus moved there. He loved music and wished to have a "good hi-fi set." This desire led him to enroll in radio technician school, in order to create and design this hi-fi set that did not exist at the time. Mr. Backus realized he had a love and talent for mathematics and later transfered to Columbia University.

Mr. Backus was hired to work on the SSEC ( , which was a primitive form of the computer. The job was hard and Mr. Backus spent three years of his life working on the SSEC, while he invented a program called Speedcoding ( This program allowed numbers, both large and small, to be stored and manipulated, which is called a scaling factor. Backus set out to create a system that allowed computers to work faster by setting up a new language that the computer could understand. Mr. Backus created Fortran ( in the 1950s; it is a system that allows people to work with computers without having to have to understanding of how they function. This system that he created was one of the most used and best programing systems in the world. It changed how people interacted with computers and paved the way for modern software.

This genius man was able to become highly successful; however, the road to his success was difficult. He had his struggles and uncertainties, yet in the end, he managed to create something amazing and productive for mankind and it was all interesting to him. He ended up doing what he liked and what he was good at. Backus was told reporters that "much of my work has come from being lazy;" he said that he started work on programming systems in order to make it easier to write programs.