SAN JOSE, Calif. The Association for Computing Machinery has named the first woman to win the annual Turing Award that recognizes significant advances in computer science. Frances E. Allen, a retired IBM Fellow, won the award for her work in parallel programming to optimize computer performance.
The Turing Award, considered the Nobel Prize of computing, is awarded once a year. It is named for the British mathematician Alan M. Turing who devised techniques to help break the German codes during World War II.
"Fran Allen's work has led to remarkable advances in compiler design and machine architecture that are at the foundation of modern high-performance computing," said Ruzena Bajcsy, chairman of ACM's Turing Award Committee, and professor of Electrical and Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Allen joined IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center in 1957 to teach Fortran. She went on to publish a number of groundbreaking papers in program optimization starting in 1966.
In 1984, Allen formed and led IBM's Parallel Translation project to address challenges programming highly parallel computers. This project led to advances including the concept of the program dependence graph, a fundamental technique used by most parallel compilers today.
Allen became president in 1995 of the IBM Academy of Technology, a global organization of IBM technical leaders charged with providing technical advice to the company. She retired in 2002.
Her career included a stint working with Gene Amdahl, a pioneer in mainframe computer hardware. She also helped develop software for the BlueGene/L, a massively parallel system that is currently the world's fastest supercomputer.
"It is particularly timely that this award comes as parallel computing is becoming an element of the most pervasive of computing platforms," said Andrew A. Chien, vice president of research at Intel Corp. speaking in a prepared statement.