Charles Leiserson
Charles Leiserson

Charles E. Leiserson is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He joined the faculty of MIT in 1981, where he holds the Edwin Sibley Webster Chair in MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department. He is former Associate Director and Chief Operating Officer of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the largest on-campus laboratory at MIT. He leads the Supertech Research Group in the Lab and is a member of its Theory of Computation group. He is Faculty Director of the USAF-MIT AI Accelerator. He received his B.S. from Yale University in 1975 and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1981.
Professor Leiserson’s research centers on the theory of parallel computing, especially as it relates to engineering reality. He coauthored the first paper on systolic architectures. He invented the retiming method of digital-circuit optimization and developed the algorithmic theory behind it. On leave from MIT at Thinking Machines Corporation, he designed and led the implementation of the network architecture for the Connection Machine Model CM-5 Supercomputer. This machine was the world’s most powerful supercomputer in the early 1990’s, and it incorporated the “universal” fat-tree interconnection network he developed at MIT. Fat-trees are now the preferred interconnect strategy for Infiniband technology. He introduced the notion of cache-oblivious algorithms, which exploit the memory hierarchy near optimally while containing no tuning parameters for cache size or cache-line length. He developed the Cilk multithreaded programming language and runtime system, which featured the first provably efficient work-stealing scheduler. He led the development of several Cilk-based parallel chess-playing programs, including ?Socrates and Cilkchess, which won numerous prizes in international competition. On leave from MIT as Director of System Architecture at Akamai Technologies, he led the engineering team that developed a worldwide content-distribution network with tens of thousands of Internet servers. He founded Cilk Arts, Inc., which developed the Cilk++ multicore concurrency platform. Intel Corporation acquired Cilk Arts in 2009, and Cilk technology is available in many compilers today, notably in the OpenCilk extension to Clang/LLVM.
Professor Leiserson has made numerous contributions to computer-science education. He is well known as a coauthor of the textbook, Introduction to Algorithms (The MIT Press), which was named “Best 1990 Professional and Scholarly Book in Computer Science and Data Processing” by the Association of American Publishers. Currently in its third edition, it is the leading textbook on computer algorithms, having sold over 1,000,000 copies worldwide, and is one of the most cited publications in all of computer science. He developed the MIT undergraduate courses on algorithms, discrete mathematics for computer science, and performance engineering. He was for several years the head of the computer-science program for the Singapore-MIT Alliance, one of the first distance-education collaborations, which produced popular video lectures of his undergraduate course on algorithms, viewable through MIT OpenCourseWare. His annual workshop on Leadership Skills for Engineering and Science Faculty has educated hundreds of faculty at MIT and around the world in the human issues involved in leading technical teams in academia. He was the founding Workshop Chair for the MIT Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP), which teaches MIT Engineering sophomores how leadership skills can leverage their technical skills in professional environments. He has graduated over 28 Ph.D. students and supervised scores of master’s theses and bachelor’s projects.
Professor Leiserson has been honored with many academic awards. He received the 2014 ACMIEEE Computer Society Ken Kennedy Award for his “enduring influence on parallel computing systems and their adoption into mainstream use through scholarly research and development.” He was also cited for “distinguished mentoring of computer science leaders and students.” He received the IEEE Computer Society 2014 Taylor L. Booth Education Award “for worldwide computer science education impact through writing a best-selling algorithms textbook, and developing courses on algorithms and parallel programming.” He received the ACM 2013 Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award “for contributions to efficient and robust parallel computation through both provably efficient randomized scheduling protocols and a set of parallel-language primitives constituting the Cilk framework.” His articles have been received numerous Best Paper designations at prestigious conferences. He was selected the winner of the 1982 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award for his Ph.D. thesis, Area-Efficient VLSI Computation. He is a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT, the highest recognition at MIT for undergraduate teaching. Four professional societies — AAAS, ACM, IEEE, and SIAM — have elected him Fellow, and he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.