Database scientist wins Turing Award

Michael Stonebraker, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won this year’s Turing Award for his significant contribution to the development of modern database systems. He was one of the founders of Ingres and Postgres.

“Michael Stonebraker’s work is an integral part of how business is done today,” said ACM President Alexander Wolf in announcing the award. “In addition, he has consistently shown that the role of the research university is a driving force for economic development, including through practical applications of his innovative database management technology and numerous start-ups he started.”

The Turing Award, along with an amount of money, is presented annually to individuals who have made significant technical contributions to computer science. The prize is also known as the Nobel Prize in computer science. This year, the prize is $1 million and will be paid by Google. Previously, the price was $250,000.

Stonebraker developed Ingres, among others, which proved the viability of relational database theory. Ingres was one of the first two relational database systems. The other was IBM’s System R. With Ingres, Stonebraker made significant contributions to database systems, such as query language design, query processing techniques, access methods, and concurrency control. He also showed that query modification could be used to apply access control and relational view.

He also introduced the object-relationship model of database architecture with the development of Postgres in which he incorporated the ideas of object-oriented programming into the relational database context. It gave the user the ability to store, edit and define rich objects with complex behavior. The basic ideas from Ingres and Postgres can now be found in almost all major database systems.

In addition to all the past contributions, Stonebraker champions the ‘no size fits all’ approach in database architecture, such as the real-time processing of streaming data sources with Aurora/StreamBase. His name is also linked to C-Store/Vertica, the latter company being sold to then Hewlett-Packard for $340 million in 2011. He also developed H-Store/VoltDB and the science-oriented SciDB.