Alexander Stepanov

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Alexander Stepanov

Alexander Stepanov (born November 16, 1950 in Moscow) is the primary designer and implementer of the C++ Standard Template Library [1], which he started to develop around 1992 while employed at HP Labs. He had earlier been working for Bell Labs close to Andrew Koenig and tried to convince Bjarne Stroustrup to introduce something like Ada Generics in C++[2].

He is the author (with Paul McJones) of Elements of Programming[3], a book that grew out of a "Foundations of Programming" course[4] that Stepanov taught at Adobe Systems (while employed there).

He is currently employed by


See also

Standard Template Library and generic programming

Alexander Stepanov is an advocate of what is known as generic programming. Although David Musser had developed and advocated some aspects of generic programming already by 1971, it was limited to a rather specialized area of software development (computer algebra).

Stepanov recognized the full potential for generic programming and persuaded his then-colleagues at General Electric Research and Development (including, primarily, David Musser and Deepak Kapur) that generic programming should be pursued as a comprehensive basis for software development. At the time there was no real support in any programming language for generic programming.

The first major language to provide such support was Ada, with its generic units feature. By 1987 Stepanov and Musser had developed and published an Ada library for list processing that embodied the results of much of their research on generic programming. However, Ada had not achieved much acceptance outside the defense industry and C++ seemed more likely to become widely used and provide good support for generic programming even though the language was relatively immature. Another reason for turning to C++, which Stepanov recognized early on, was the C/C++ model of computation which allows very flexible access to storage via pointers is crucial to achieving generality without losing efficiency. It eventually led to the development of the Standard Template Library of C++.

Criticism of OOP

In several interviews, Stepanov has voiced strong criticisms of OOP. [1] for example:

  • "I think that object orientedness is almost as much of a hoax as Artificial Intelligence..."
  • "I find OOP technically unsound. It attempts to decompose the world in terms of interfaces that vary on a single type. To deal with the real problems you need multisorted algebras - families of interfaces that span multiple types. I find OOP philosophically unsound. It claims that everything is an object. Even if it is true it is not very interesting - saying that everything is an object is saying nothing at all. I find OOP methodologically wrong. It starts with classes. It is as if mathematicians would start with axioms. You do not start with axioms - you start with proofs. Only when you have found a bunch of related proofs, can you come up with axioms. You end with axioms. The same thing is true in programming: you have to start with interesting algorithms. Only when you understand them well, can you come up with an interface that will let them work."


  1. Alexander Stepanov and Meng Lee, The Standard Template Library. HP Laboratories Technical Report 95-11(R.1), November 14, 1995.
  2. Stroustrup, Bjarne (May 2007) (PDF). Evolving a language in and for the real world: C++ 1991-2006, section 4.1.2. preprint. ACM HOPL-III Conference. 
  3. Alexander Stepanov and Paul McJones (2009). Elements of Programming. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-321-63537-2. 
  4. Alexander Stepanov (2007) (PDF). Notes on Programming. 

External links

de:Alexander Alexandrowitsch Stepanow (Informatiker) fr:Alexander Stepanov no:Alexander Stepanov pt:Alexander Stepanov ru:Степанов, Александр Александрович

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