The prof, who was included alongside the likes of Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire, could not be more modest if he tried.
As a classics scholar, he became fascinated with the links between natural language and the artificial language of computers. Studying at Moscow State University in 1960, he developed the idea for Quicksort, a now-standard programme that orders jumbled lists of names and numbers.
Now 59, he does not mind being thought of as existing in an ivory tower. 'Some have to be ivory tower thinkers and others have to get their hands dirty on the product line.'
He does worry, though, that the Government is putting too much emphasis on research linked to industry, as opposed to academic research. 'Applied research provides for the future, but without pure research, we won't know what that future is going to be,' he said. 'The understanding the pure brings makes applied research easier. Otherwise, at best, we're doing cooking.'