Professor Liskov is the second woman to be awarded the prize
The 2009 A. M. Turing Award has gone to Barbara Liskov for her contributions to programming.
Professor Liskov was the first US woman to be awarded a PhD in computing, and her innovations can be found in every modern programming language.
She currently heads the Programming Methodology Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The award, often referred to as the "Nobel Prize for computing", includes a $250,000 (£180,000) purse.
Professor Liskov's design innovations have, over the decades, made software more reliable and easier to maintain.
She has invented two computer progamming languages: CLU, a forerunner of modern object-oriented ones and Argus, a distributed programming language.
Liskov's groundbreaking research underpins virtually every modern computer application, forming the basis of modern programming languages such as Java, C# and C++.
One of the biggest impacts of her work came from her contributions to the use of data abstraction, a method for organising complex programs.
The prize, named after British mathematician Alan Turing, is awarded annually by the Association for Computing Machinery.
ACM president Professor Dame Wendy Hall said of Liskov: "Her elegant solutions have enriched the research community, but they have also had a practical effect as well.
"They have led to the design and construction of real products that are more reliable than were believed practical not long ago," she added.
Professor Liskov will be presented with the award in June.