ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory

Knuth Prize

The Donald E. Knuth Prize for outstanding contributions to the foundations of computer science is awarded for major research accomplishments and contributions to the foundations of computer science over an extended period of time. The Prize is awarded annually by the ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT) and the IEEE Technical Committee on the Mathematical Foundations of Computing (TCMF).

Nomination Procedure. Anyone in the Theoretical Computer Science community may nominate a candidate. To do so, please send nominations to by March 31, 2021. The nomination should state the nominee’s name, summarize their contributions in one or two pages, provide a CV for the nominee or a pointer to the nominee’s web page, and give telephone and email contact information for the nominator. Any supporting letters from other members of the community (up to a limit of 5) should be included in the package that the nominator submits. Supporting letters should contain substantial information not in the nomination. Others may endorse the nomination simply by adding their names to the nomination letter. If you have nominated a candidate in past years, you can re-nominate the candidate by sending a message to that effect to the above email address. (You may revise the nominating materials if you so desire.)

Criteria for Selection. The winner is selected by a Prize Committee consisting of six people appointed by the SIGACT and TCMF Chairs, see below for the composition of the committee. Previous nominations made or updated in the last 5 years will be considered. Older nominations must be updated for consideration. Note that the Knuth Prize is awarded to a single individual each year. Nominations of groups of researchers will not be considered.

In selecting the Knuth Prize winner, the Committee pays particular attention to a sustained record of high-impact, seminal contributions to the foundations of computer science. The selection may also be based partly on educational accomplishments and contributions such as fundamental textbooks and high-quality students. The award is not given for service to the theoretical computer science community, but service may be included in the citation for a winner if appropriate.

The 2021 prize committee consists of Harold Gabow (Chair, U. Colorado), Noam Nisan (Hebrew U.), Dana Randall (Georgia Tech), Ronitt Rubinfeld (MIT), Madhu Sudan (Harvard U.), and Andy Yao (Tsinghua U.).

About the Award. The first Knuth Prize was presented at the 1996 ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC). Prize presentations now alternate between STOC in odd years and the IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS) in even years. The winner is invited to give a lecture at the conference.

The 2021 Prize will be presented at STOC 2021 to be held online as a virtual conference June 21-25, 2021. The Prize includes a \$10,000 award paid by SIGACT and TCMF.

The previous Knuth Prize Laureates are: Andrew C.-C. Yao (1996), Leslie G. Valiant (1997), László Lovász (1999), Jeffery Ullman (2000), Christos Papadimitriou (2002), Miklos Ajtai (2003), Mihalis Yannakakis (2005), Nancy Lynch (2007), Volker Strassen (2008), David Johnson (2009), Ravindran Kannan (2011), Leonid Levin (2012), Gary Miller (2013), Richard Lipton (2014), László Babai (2015), Noam Nisan (2016), Oded Goldreich (2017), Johan Håstad (2018), Avi Wigderson (2019), and Cynthia Dwork (2020).

About Donald E. Knuth. The prize is named in honor and recognition of the extraordinary accomplishments of Prof. Donald Knuth, Emeritus at Stanford University. Prof. Knuth is best known for his ongoing multivolume series, The Art of Computer Programming, which has played a critical role in establishing and defining Computer Science as a rigorous, intellectual discipline. Prof. Knuth has also made fundamental contributions to the subfields of analysis of algorithms, compilers, string matching, term-rewriting systems, literate programming, and typography. His TeX and MF systems are widely accepted as standards for electronic typesetting. Prof. Knuth’s work is distinguished by its integration of theoretical analyses and practical, real-world concerns. In his work, theory and practice are not separate components of Computer Science but rather inexorably linked branches of the same whole.

Most Recent Winner


  • 2020: Cynthia Dwork
  • 2019: Avi Wigderson
  • 2018: Johan Håstad
  • 2017: Oded Goldreich
  • 2016: Noam Nisan
  • 2015: László Babai
  • 2014: Richard J. Lipton
  • 2013: Gary L. Miller
  • 2012: Leonid Levin
  • 2011: Ravi Kannan
  • 2010: David S. Johnson
  • 2008: Volker Strassen
  • 2007: Nancy Lynch
  • 2005: Mihalis Yannakakis
  • 2003: Miklos Ajtai
  • 2002: Christos Papadimitriou
  • 2000: Jeffrey D. Ullman
  • 1999: László Lovász
  • 1997: Leslie G. Valiant
  • 1996: Andrew C.-C. Yao