Top 25 Most Popular Software Engineers

Today I wanted to know which people are the most popular thinkers and writers in the field of software engineering. So I devised a hopelessly skewed and utterly unprofessional way to measure the popularity of the most famous software engineers, consultants and managers. This is what I did.

On I traced the best-selling books on software engineering, dealing with methodologies, project/people management, patterns, best practices, etc. (I skipped all books about Java, .NET, Ruby, OopsyDaisy# and other specific technologies.) I then awarded points to authors for the number of reviews on their books, multiplied with their average review scores. I also awarded points for the number of Google hits on these authors' names, in combination with the "software development" keyword. (I multiplied the hit count with my computer's free memory size, to make them fit my tiny Excel spreadsheet columns.)

I admit that my method is totally unresponsible, and I should be shot or sued by someone from Gallup or Nielsen for pretending that my research has any significant value. But before they do, here are my results…


1 Steve McConnell 22,5%
2 Martin Fowler 20,7%
3 Kent Beck 15,4%
4 Grady Booch 13,3%
5 Joel Spolsky 12,5%
6 Tom DeMarco 10,9%
7 Erich Gamma 9,6%
8 Craig Larman 9,3%
9 Scott W. Ambler 8,1%
10 Alistair Cockburn 8,0%
11 Ivar Jacobson 7,5%
12 Edward Yourdon 6,8%
13 Ken Schwaber 6,0%
14 James Rumbaugh 5,6%
15 Mike Cohn 5,5%
16 Andrew Hunt 5,2%
17 Robert L. Glass 4,5%
18 Frederick P. Brooks 4,3%
19 Jim Highsmith 3,9%
20 Paul Graham 3,9%
21 Philippe Kruchten 3,7%
22 Timothy Lister 3,7%
23 Mary Poppendieck 3,5%
24 Karl E. Wiegers 3,1%
25 Barry Boehm 2,7%


And it appears that Steve McConnell is the winner! Hurray! (Please send your congratulations and flowers to Steve McConnell at, with a reference to this blog.)

If you think someone important is missing from my list, please let me know! I am considering to turn this list into a big awards ceremony next year. With tiny golden keyboards or something.

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  • Uffe

    Robert Martin & Ward Cunningham

  • Carlos Ortega

    On a personal basis, I would consider to add:
    – Watts Humphrey
    – Ward Cunningham
    – Jim McCarthy
    – Robert Martin
    – Jeff Sutherland
    – Joshua Kerievsky
    – Ron Jeffries
    – Brian Marick
    – Alistair Cockburn
    – Dave Thomas
    – Scott Meyers

  • Sander Hoogendoorn

    Hi Jurgen,
    Please do not forget Anders Hejlsberg, godfather of Delphi, C#, LINQ and parts of the .Net framework, author of the Turbo Pascal compiler. He’s in my top 10 anyway.

  • Joe Snyder

    I think it’s easier to be a good thinker/writer about software engineering than it is to be an actual good software engineer.
    So, I think it would be very informative to ask the 25 people on your list “what engineers (or maybe what programmers) have most impressed you with the software they created (and how they created it)?”
    In other words, I’d be more interested in a list of people who actually engineered great software than a list of people who proposed how to engineer great software (although I understand there might be some intersection of the lists).
    To me, a software engineer is someone who programs, not just manages, conceptualizes, designs methodologies, systems, etc. Eg, “The Mythical Man-Month” is a tremendous contribution to software development, and Fred Brooks might be an insightful manager, but I’d hesitate to call him a software engineer. On the other hand, Kernighan and Plauger’s “Software Tools” and “Elements of Programming Style” definitely qualify them as excellent software engineers.
    I have a feeling the best software engineers are busy engineering software, not writing books and blogs (K&P excepted). Who are the best? I’m very curious to know who your 25 “engineers” would vote for.

  • joseph kachere

    I think these are also greats
    Bertrand Meyer – creator of Eiffel and Design by Contract
    Bill Joy – Java Creator
    Alistair Cockburn

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