Leslie Lamport

Leslie B. Lamport (born February 7, 1941) is an American computer scientist. Lamport is best known for his seminal work in distributed systems, and as the initial developer of the document preparation system LaTeX and the author of its first manual.[2][3] Leslie Lamport was the winner of the 2013 Turing Award[4] for imposing clear, well-defined coherence on the seemingly chaotic behavior of distributed computing systems, in which several autonomous computers communicate with each other by passing messages. He devised important algorithms and developed formal modeling and verification protocols that improve the quality of real distributed systems. These contributions have resulted in improved correctness, performance, and reliability of computer systems.[5][6][7][8][9]

Leslie Lamport
Leslie B. Lamport

(1941-02-07) February 7, 1941
Alma mater
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
ThesisThe analytic Cauchy problem with singular data (1972)
Doctoral advisorRichard Palais[1]

Early life and education

A graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, he received a B.S. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1960, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from Brandeis University, respectively in 1963 and 1972.[10] His dissertation was about singularities in analytic partial differential equations.[11]

Career and research

Lamport worked as a computer scientist at Massachusetts Computer Associates from 1970 to 1977, SRI International from 1977 to 1985, and Digital Equipment Corporation and Compaq from 1985 to 2001. In 2001 he joined Microsoft Research in Mountain View, California, which closed in 2014.[10]

Distributed Systems

Lamport's research contributions have laid the foundations of the theory of distributed systems. Among his most notable papers are

  • "Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System",[6] which received the PODC Influential Paper Award in 2000,[12]
  • "How to Make a Multiprocessor Computer That Correctly Executes Multiprocess Programs",[13] which defined the notion of sequential consistency,
  • "The Byzantine Generals' Problem",[14]
  • "Distributed Snapshots: Determining Global States of a Distributed System"[15] and
  • "The Part-Time Parliament".[16]

These papers relate to such concepts as logical clocks (and the happened-before relationship) and Byzantine failures. They are among the most cited papers in the field of computer science[17], and describe algorithms to solve many fundamental problems in distributed systems, including:


When Donald Knuth began issuing the early releases of TeX in the early 1980s, Lamport — due to his personal need of writing a book — also began working on a set of macros based on it, hoping that it would later become its standard macro package. This set of macros would later become known as LaTeX, for which Lamport would subsequently be approached in 1983 by Peter Gordon, an Addison-Wesley editor, who proposed that Lamport turn its user manual into a book.[18][19]

In September 1984, Lamport released version 2.06a of the LaTeX macros, and in August 1985, LaTeX 2.09 — the last version of Lamport's LaTeX — would be released as well. Meanwhile, Addison-Wesley released Lamport's first LaTeX user manual, LaTeX: A Document Preparation System, in 1986, which purportedly sold "more than a few hundred thousands" copies, and on August 21, 1989, at a TeX User Group meeting at Stanford, Lamport would agree to turn over the maintenance and development of LaTeX to Frank Mittelbach, who, along with Chris Rowley and Rainer Schöpf, would form the LaTeX3 team, subsequently releasing LaTeX 2e, the current version of LaTeX, in 1994.[19][3][20]

Temporal Logic

Lamport is also known for his work on temporal logic, where he introduced the temporal logic of actions (TLA).[21][22] Among his more recent contributions is TLA+, a language for specifying and reasoning about concurrent and reactive systems, that he describes in the book Specifying Systems: The TLA+ Language and Tools for Hardware and Software Engineers[23] and defines as a "quixotic attempt to overcome engineers' antipathy towards mathematics".[24]

Awards and honors

Lamport received the 2013 Turing Award for "fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of distributed and concurrent systems, notably the invention of concepts such as causality and logical clocks, safety and liveness, replicated state machines, and sequential consistency" in 2014.[25] He was elected to Fellow of ACM (2014).[26] He also received five honorary doctorates from European universities: University of Rennes and Christian Albrechts University of Kiel in 2003, EPFL in 2004, University of Lugano in 2006, and Nancy-Université in 2007.[10] In 2004, he received the IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award.[27] In 2005, the paper "Reaching Agreement in the Presence of Faults"[28] received the Dijkstra Prize.[29] In honor of Lamport's sixtieth birthday, a lecture series was organized at the 20th Symposium on Principles of Distributed Computing (PODC 2001).[30] In 2008, he received the IEEE John von Neumann Medal.[31] In 2011, he was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences.[32] He was named ACM Fellow[33] 2014 for fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of distributed and concurrent systems.


  1. Leslie Lamport at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. Lamport, Leslie (1986). LaTeX: A Document Preparation System. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-201-15790-1. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  3. "The Definitive, Non-Technical Introduction to LaTeX, Professional Typesetting and Scientific Publishing". Math Vault. 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  4. Lamport, Leslie (2013). "Leslie Lamport - A.M. Turing Award Winner". ACM.
  5. Leslie Lamport author profile page at the ACM Digital Library
  6. Lamport, L. (1978). "Time, clocks, and the ordering of events in a distributed system" (PDF). Communications of the ACM . 21 (7): 558–565. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/359545.359563.
  7. List of publications from Microsoft Academic
  8. Savage, N. (2014). "General agreement: Leslie Lamport contributed to the theory and practice of building distributed computing systems that work as intended". Communications of the ACM. 57 (6): 22–23. doi:10.1145/2601076.
  9. Hoffmann, L. (2014). "Q&A Divide and Conquer: Leslie Lamport on Byzantine generals, clocks, and other tools for reasoning about concurrent systems". Communications of the ACM. 57 (6): 112–ff. doi:10.1145/2601077.
  10. Lamport, Leslie (2006-12-19). "My Writings". Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  11. Lamport, Leslie (1972). "The Analytic Cauchy Problem with Singular Data". Retrieved 2007-02-02. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. Neiger, Gil (2003-01-23). "PODC Influential Paper Award: 2000". Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  13. Lamport, Leslie (1979). "How to Make a Multiprocessor Computer That Correctly Executes Multiprocess Program". IEEE Trans. Comput. 28 (9): 690–691. doi:10.1109/TC.1979.1675439. ISSN 0018-9340.
  14. Lamport, Leslie; Robert Shostak; Marshall Pease (July 1982). "The Byzantine Generals Problem". ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems. 4 (3): 382–401. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/357172.357176. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  15. Chandy, K. Mani; Leslie Lamport (February 1985). "Distributed Snapshots: Determining Global States of a Distributed System". ACM Transactions on Computer Systems. 3 (1): 63–75. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/214451.214456. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  16. Lamport, Leslie (May 1998). "The Part-Time Parliament". ACM Transactions on Computer Systems. 16 (2): 133–169. doi:10.1145/279227.279229. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  17. "Most cited articles in Computer Science". September 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
  18. Lamport, Leslie. "How (LA)TEX changed the face of Mathematics" (PDF).
  19. "The Writings of Leslie Lamport". lamport.azurewebsites.net. Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  20. "TeX, LaTeX, and AMS-LaTeX". web.archive.org. 1998-12-03. Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  21. Lamport, Leslie (1990-04-01). "A Temporal Logic of Actions". Retrieved 2007-02-02. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. Lamport, Leslie (May 1994). "The Temporal Logic of Actions". ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems. 16 (3): 872–923. doi:10.1145/177492.177726. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  23. Lamport, Leslie (2002). Specifying Systems: The TLA+ Language and Tools for Hardware and Software Engineers. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-321-14306-8. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  24. "The International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks keynote speaker biography". Retrieved 2007-03-06.
  25. "Turing award 2013". ACM.
  26. Leslie Lamport ACM Fellows 2014
  27. "IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award Recipients es" (PDF). IEEE. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  28. Pease, Marshall; Robert Shostak; Leslie Lamport (April 1980). "Reaching Agreement in the Presence of Faults". Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. 27 (2): 228–234. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/322186.322188. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  29. "Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize in Distributed Computing: 2005". Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  30. "PODC 2001: Lamport Lecture Series". Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  31. "IEEE John von Neumann Medal Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
  32. Members and Foreign Associates Elected Archived May 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, National Academy of Sciences, May 3, 2011.
  33. ACM Names Fellows for Innovations in Computing Archived 2015-01-14 at the Wayback Machine, Association for Computing Machinery, January 8, 2015.
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