A woman has been named the honorary of the prestigious A.M. Turing Award, essentially the Nobel Prize of the computing industry, for the first time in its 41-year history.
Given by the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), which strives to advance computing as a science and a professions, the award is accompanied by a prize of $100,000.
It is given to an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made the computer community. Financial support of the Turing Award is provided by Intel.
The 2006 recipient, Frances E. Allen, has been presented with the award for her pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimizing compilers and automatic parallel execution.
After graduating from Albany State Teachers College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1954, Allen earned a master’s in math at the University of Michigan in 1957, and began teaching in upstate New York.
Allen joined IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center in later that year, to teach FORTRAN, a revolutionary high-level programming language, to the scientists at IBM.
In 1984, she formed the PTRAN (Parallel TRANslation) group to study the issues involved in compiling for parallel machines; it was considered one of the top research groups in the world focused on this issue.
“Fran Allen’s work on the Parallel TRANslation project built on her earlier work on program optimization,” said Andrew A. Chien, Intel’s Vice President of Research.
“Over the years, this foundation has enabled the advance of programming-productivity based on the co-evolution of higher level programming language and optimization technologies. It is particularly timely that this award comes as parallel computing is becoming an element of the most pervasive of computing platforms—laptop and desktop personal computers—and the opportunities for new and important contributions to parallel programming and efficient implementation abound.”
In addition, Allen made fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of program optimization, which have contributed to advances in the use of high performance computers for solving problems from weather forecasting to DNA matching and national security functions.
In 1989, Allen became the first woman to be recognized as an IBM Fellow, and was also the president of the IBM Academy of Technology. Now an IBM Fellow Emerita after retiring from IBM 2002, she teaches at the T.J. Watson Research Center.
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