John Hennessy honored for innovation and teaching in CPU design

JOHN HENNESSY, Stanford president emeritus and the James F. and Mary Lynn Gibbons Professor in the School of Engineering, will share the 2020 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Information and Communication Technologies for his role in creating the approach to central processing unit (CPU) design used in 99 percent of the microprocessors in the world today, and for co-authoring the textbook on computer systems architecture that, three decades and five revisions after its introduction, remains the technical foundation for training computer architecture students in universities everywhere.

John Hennessy
John Hennessy

Hennessy shares the award with David Patterson, a professor emeritus of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the landmark text Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach. Patterson and Hennessy were also cited for the development of Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC), which since its introduction in the early 1980s has offered a simple yet rigorous set of design principles that make it possible to create computers that are both faster and more energy efficient.

Hennessy and Patterson previously shared the computer industry’s best-known technical honor, the 2017 Turing Award, for their joint efforts in developing RISC. The Frontiers of Knowledge Award announced jointly Wednesday by the BBVA Foundation and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) emphasized the pedagogical contributions of these innovators who, while working with companies to develop practical RISC processors, preserved their professorial roots and amplified their technical and commercial impact by helping, through their own teaching and textbook, to train successive generations of systems engineers.

“One of the great joys of my life is finding that there are students all over the world who appreciate our work,” Hennessy said in a statement announcing the award.

An international committee of seven academic and industrial experts considered 39 nominees before conferring the award on Hennessy and Patterson, whose candidacy was advanced by MARK HOROWITZ, the Yahoo! Founders Professor in the School of Engineering and professor of computer science and of electrical engineering at Stanford.

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards, Premios Fundación BBVA Fronteras del Conocimiento in Spanish, recognize significant contributions in the areas of scientific research and cultural creation ranging from basic discovery to music and opera to the humanities and social sciences. BBVA published video interviews of Hennessy and Patterson in its award announcement. Depending on travel restrictions, the formal award presentation will be made either at a gathering scheduled for Sept. 21 in Bilbao, Spain, or through a combination of onsite and online activities.

Read the full article on Stanford Today.