A Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor won the $250,000 Turing Award, one of the most prestigious honors in computing, for helping to make computer programs more reliable, secure and easy to use.

Only the second woman to win the prize, Barbara Liskov was honored Tuesday for pioneering new designs in computer languages that gird everyday digital applications.

"Her exceptional achievements have leapt from the halls of academia to transform daily life around the world," MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif said. "Every time you exchange e-mail with a friend, check your bank statement online or run a Google search, you are riding the momentum of her research."

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The Association for Computing Machinery, which awards the Turing, said Liskov revolutionized the programming field after she was the first U.S. woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in computer science, which she got from Stanford University in 1968. Liskov has been an MIT professor since 1972.

Liskov's early work in software design has been incorporated into major programming languages for more than three decades. Her innovations in data abstraction — a way of organizing complex programs — has helped made software easier to write, modify and maintain.

In an interview, Liskov explained that her work "has to do with `modularity,' taking complex systems and breaking them into small pieces to keep them simple."

The Turing award, to be presented June 27 in San Diego, is named for the late British mathematician Alan Turing. Past winners include Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn.

Its prize money comes from Google Inc. and Intel Corp.