Frances E. Allen Wins ACM’s Turing Award; First Woman To Win

ACM has named former IBM researcher as the winner of this year’s Turing Award — the “Nobel Prize in Computing.” Dr. Allen, known for her award-winning work in program optimization, is the first woman to receive the award. From today’s LA Times story:

“When Allen receives the award, which comes with a $100,000 prize, at the association’s annual banquet in San Diego on June 9, it won’t take a computer scientist to wonder: What took so long?

Allen’s achievement comes long after women toppled barriers in other professions. Marie Curie became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in 1903. Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921. Sandra Day O’Connor joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981, two years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

But computer science still is dominated by men. Fewer than one in five bachelor’s degrees in computer science were given to women in 1994, according to the Computing Research Assn. Ten years later, that figure remains about the same, at 17%.”

Dr. Allen’s work made fundamental contributions to the field of computing and helped crack Cold War-era code:

“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, Chair of ACM’s Turing Award Committee, and professor of Electrical and Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. “Her contributions have spanned most of the history of computer science, and have made possible computing techniques that we rely on today in business and technology. It is interesting to note Allen’s role in highly secret intelligence work on security codes for the organization now known as the National Security Agency, since it was Alan Turing, the namesake of this prestigious award, who devised techniques to help break the German codes during World War II,”said Bajcsy, who is Emeritus Director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) at Berkeley.

The ACM A.M. Turing Award was named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing, and who was a key contributor to the Allied cryptanalysis of the German Enigma cipher during World War II. Since its inception, the Turing Award has honored the computer scientists and engineers who created the systems and underlying theoretical foundations that have propelled the information technology industry.

It carries a $100,000 prize, with financial support provided by the Intel Corporation.

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