The following is reformatted from a presentation I gave at LinkedIn last year. The presentation attempted to explain functional programming without using concepts like “monads” or “immutability” or “side effects”. Instead it focuses on how thinking about composition can make you a better programmer, regardless of what language you use.

40years ago, on October 17th, 1977, the Turing Award was presented to John Backus for his contribution to the design of high-level programming systems, most notably the Fortran programming language. All Turing Award winners are given the opportunity to present a lecture on a topic of their choice during the year in which they receive the award. As the creator of the Fortran programming language, one may have expected Backus to lecture on the benefits of Fortran and future developments in the language. Instead, he gave a lecture entitled Can programming be liberated from the Von Neumann style? in which he criticized some of the mainstream languages of the day, including Fortran, for their shortcomings. He also proposed an alternative: a functional style of programming.

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