Conway in 2006
White Plains, New York, U.S.
|Institutions||IBM, Memorex, Xerox PARC, DARPA, University of Michigan|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
|Known for||Mead & Conway revolution, Transgender activism|
Conway is notable for a number of pioneering achievements, including the Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI design, which incubated an emerging electronic design automation industry. She worked at IBM in the 1960s and is credited with the invention of generalised dynamic instruction handling, a key advance used in out-of-order execution, used by most modern computer processors to improve performance.
Early life and education
Conway grew up in White Plains, New York. Although shy and experiencing gender dysphoria as a child, Conway became fascinated and engaged by astronomy (building a 6-inch (150 mm) reflector telescope one summer) and did well in math and science in high school. Conway entered MIT in 1955, earning high grades but ultimately leaving in despair after an attempted gender transition in 1957-8 failed due to the medical climate at the time. After working as an electronics technician for several years, Conway resumed education at Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, earning B.S. and M.S.E.E. degrees in 1962 and 1963.
Early research at IBM
Conway was recruited by IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, New York in 1964, and was soon selected to join the architecture team designing an advanced supercomputer, working alongside John Cocke, Herbert Schorr, Ed Sussenguth, Fran Allen and other IBM researchers on the Advanced Computing Systems (ACS) project, inventing multiple-issue out-of-order dynamic instruction scheduling while working there. The Computer History Museum has stated that "the ACS machines appears to have been the first superscalar design, a computer architectural paradigm widely exploited in modern high-performance microprocessors."
After learning of the pioneering research of Harry Benjamin in transgender treatment and realizing that a full gender transition was now possible, Conway sought his help and became his patient. After suffering from severe depression from gender dysphoria, Conway contacted Benjamin, who agreed to providing counseling and prescribe hormones. Under Benjamin's care, Conway began preparing for transition.
While struggling with life in a male role, Conway had been married to a woman and had two children. Under the legal constraints then in place, after transitioning she was denied access to their children.
Career as computer scientist
Upon completing her transition in 1968, Conway took a new name and identity, and restarted her career in "stealth-mode" as a contract programmer at Computer Applications, Inc. She went on to work at Memorex during 1969–1972 as a digital system designer and computer architect.
Conway joined Xerox PARC in 1973, where she led the "LSI Systems" group under Bert Sutherland. Collaborating with Carver Mead of Caltech on VLSI design methodology, she co-authored Introduction to VLSI Systems, a groundbreaking work that would soon become a standard textbook in chip design, used in over 100 universities by 1983. The book and early courses were the beginning of the Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI system design.
In 1978, Conway served as visiting associate professor of EECS at MIT, teaching a now famous VLSI design course based on a draft of the Mead–Conway text. The course validated the new design methods and textbook, and established the syllabus and instructor's guidebook used in later courses all around the world.
Among Conway's contributions were invention of dimensionless, scalable design rules that greatly simplified chip design and design tools, and invention of a new form of internet-based infrastructure for rapid-prototyping and short-run fabrication of large numbers of chip designs. The new infrastructure was institutionalized as the MOSIS system in 1981. Since then, MOSIS has fabricated more than 50,000 circuit designs for commercial firms, government agencies, and research and educational institutions around the world. Prominent VLSI researcher Charles Seitz commented that "MOSIS represented the first period since the pioneering work of Eckert and Mauchley on the ENIAC in the late 1940s that universities and small companies had access to state-of-the-art digital technology."
The research methods used to develop the Mead–Conway VLSI design methodology and the MOSIS prototype are documented in a 1981 Xerox report and the Euromicro Journal. The impact of the Mead–Conway work is described and time-lined in a number of historical overviews of computing. Conway and her colleagues have compiled an online archive of original papers that documents much of that work.
In the early 1980s, Conway left Xerox to join DARPA, where she was a key architect of the Defense Department's Strategic Computing Initiative, a research program studying high-performance computing, autonomous systems technology, and intelligent weapons technology.
In a USA Today article about Conway's joining DARPA, Mark Stefik, a Xerox scientist who worked with her, said "Lynn would like to live five lives in the course of one life" and that she’s "charismatic and very energetic". Douglas Fairbairn, a former Xerox associate, said "She figures out a way so that everybody wins."
Conway joined the University of Michigan in 1985 as professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and associate dean of engineering. There she worked on "visual communications and control probing for basic system and user-interface concepts as applicable to hybridized internet/broadband-cable communications". She retired from active teaching and research in 1998, as professor emerita at Michigan.
In the fall of 2012, the IEEE published a special issue of the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine devoted to Lynn Conway’s career, including a career memoir by Lynn  and peer commentaries by Chuck House, former Director of Engineering at HP, Carlo Séquin, Professor of EECS at U.C. Berkeley, and Ken Shepard, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University.
"Clearly a new paradigm had emerged . . . Importantly, imaginative support in terms of infrastructure and idea dissemination proved as valuable as the concepts, tools, and chips. The "electronic book" and the "foundry" were both prescient and necessary, providing momentum and proof-points." Jim Gibbons, former Dean of Engineering at Stanford University, further states that Lynn Conway, from his perspective, "...was the singular force behind the entire "foundry" development that emerged." Ken Shepard stated that "Lynn’s amazing story of accomplishment and personal triumph in the face of personal adversity and overt discrimination should serve as an inspiration to all young engineers."
When nearing retirement, Conway learned that the story of her early work at IBM might soon be revealed through the investigations of Mark Smotherman that were being prepared for a 2001 publication. She began quietly coming out in 1999 to friends and colleagues about her past gender transition, using her personal website to tell the story in her own words. Her story was then more widely reported in 2000 in profiles in Scientific American and the Los Angeles Times.
After going public with her story, she began work in transgender activism, intending to "illuminate and normalize the issues of gender identity and the processes of gender transition." She has worked to protect and expand the rights of transgendered people. She has provided direct and indirect assistance to numerous other transsexual women going through transition and maintains a well-known website providing emotional and medical resources and advice. Parts have been translated into most of the world's major languages. She maintains a listing of many successful post-transition transsexual people, to, in her words "provide role models for individuals who are facing gender transition." Her website also provides current news related to transgender issues and information on sex reassignment surgery for transsexual women, facial feminization surgery, academic inquiries into the prevalence of transsexualism and transgender/transsexual issues in general.
Conway has been a prominent critic of the Blanchard, Bailey, and Lawrence theory of male-to-female transsexualism that all transsexual women are motivated either by feminine homosexuality or autogynephilia. She was also a key person in the campaign against J. Michael Bailey's book The Man Who Would Be Queen. Conway and Dr. McCloskey wrote letters to Northwestern University, accusing Dr. Bailey of "conducting intimate research observations on human subjects without telling them that they were objects of the study.". According to Northwestern University professor Alice Dreger, the campaign against Bailey was an attempt to ruin Bailey's reputation and career by making various false accusations against him.
Conway was a cast member in the first all-transgender performance of The Vagina Monologues, in Los Angeles in 2004, and appeared in a LOGO-Channel documentary film about that event entitled Beautiful Daughters. She has also strongly advocated for equal opportunities and employment protections for transgender people in high-technology industry, and for elimination of the pathologization of transgender people by the psychiatric community.
In 2009, Conway was named one of the "Stonewall 40 trans heroes" on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots by the International Court System, one of the oldest and largest predominantly gay organizations in the world, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
In 2013, with support from many prominent thought-leaders in high-technology, Conway and her colleague Leandra Vicci of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill successfully lobbied the Board of Directors of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for transgender inclusion in the IEEE’s Code of Ethics. That Code, known within the profession as much as a code of honor as one of ethics, became fully LGBT inclusive in January 2014, thus impacting the world’s largest engineering professional society, with 425,000 members in 160 countries.
In 1987, Conway met her husband Charlie, a professional engineer who shares her interest in the outdoors, including whitewater canoeing and motocross racing. They soon started living together, and bought a house with 24 acres (97,000 m2) of meadow, marsh, and woodland in rural Michigan in 1994. In 2002, they were married.
Awards and honors
Conway has received a number of awards and distinctions:
- Electronics 1981 Award for Achievement
- Pender Award of the Moore School, University of Pennsylvania, 1984
- IEEE EAB Major Educational Innovation Award, 1984
- Fellow of the IEEE, 1985, "for contributions to VLSI technology"
- Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute, 1985
- Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, May 1985
- Member of the National Academy of Engineering, 1989
- National Achievement Award, Society of Women Engineers, 1990
- Presidential Appointment to the United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors, 1996
- Honorary Doctorate, Trinity College, 1998
- Electronic Design Hall of Fame, 2002
- Engineer of the Year, National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientific and Technical Professionals, 2005
- Named one of the "Stonewall 40 trans heroes" by the ICS and NGLTF, 2009.
- Computer Pioneer Award, IEEE Computer Society, 2009
- Member of the Corporation, Emerita, The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, 1993-2010
- Fellow Award, Computer History Museum, 2014
- Honorary Doctorate, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2014
- Mark Smotherman. "IBM Advanced Computing Systems (ACS) – 1961–1969".
- "Embracing Diversity – HP employees in Fort Collins, Colorado, welcome Dr. Lynn Conway", hpNOW, February 8, 2001.
- "Lynn Conway: 2009 Computer Pioneer Award Recipient", IEEE Computer Society, January 20, 2010.
- "Computer Society Names Computer Pioneers", IEEE Computer Society, January 20, 2010.
- "IEEE Computer Society Video: Lynn Conway receives 2009 IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award", YouTube, July 30, 2010.
- "Event: IBM ACS System: A Pioneering Supercomputer Project of the 1960s", Computer History Museum, February 18, 2010.
- "Computer History Museum Events: IBM ACS System: A Pioneering Supercomputer Project of the 1960s", Computer History Museum, February 18, 2010.
- "Historical Reflections: IBM's Single-Processor Supercomputer Efforts - Insights on the pioneering IBM Stretch and ACS projects" by M. Smotherman and D. Spicer, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 53, No. 12, December 2010, pp. 28-30.
- Lynn Conway, "Lynn Conway's Retrospective Part I: Childhood and education," 9 February 2005.
- Kilbane, Doris. (2003-10-20.) "Lynn Conway: A trailblazer on professional, personal levels." Electronic Design, via electronic design.com. Retrieved on 2007-09-24.
- Paul Wallich, "Profile: Lynn Conway—Completing the Circuit," Scientific American Magazine, December 2000.
- Dianne Lynch, "The Secret Behind 'Project Y': One Woman's Success Story — 'What Works, Works'", ABCNews.com, November 29, 2001.
- Mark Smotherman. "IBM ACS Reunion – February 18, 2010, in California".
- "The IBM ACS System: A Pioneering Supercomputer Project – Video".
- Hiltzik, Michael A. (2000-11-19.) "Through the Gender Labyrinth.". Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times Magazine, page 1. (Free reprint. Retrieved on 2007-09-19.)
- Conway, Lynn (2012). "Reminiscences of the VLSI revolution: How a series of failures triggered a paradigm shift in digital design". IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine (IEEE) 4 (4): 8–31. doi:10.1109/MSSC.2012.2215752. ISSN 1943-0582.
- "Lynn Conway's Retrospective PART III: Starting Over". Ai.eecs.umich.edu. 1960-05-12. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Adele J. Goldberg (September 1980). "About This Issue...". ACM Computing Surveys 12 (3): 257–258. doi:10.1145/356819.356820. ISSN 0360-0300.
- Rob Walker and Nancy Tersini (1992). Silicon Destiny: The Story of Application Specific Integrated Circuits and LSI Logic Corporation. Walker Research Associates. ISBN 0-9632654-0-7.
- Gina Smith,"Unsung innovators: Lynn Conway and Carver Mead: They literally wrote the book on chip design," Computerworld, December 3, 2007.
- Paul McLellan,"The book that changed everything," EDN, February 11, 2009.
- The MIT'78 VLSI System Design Course: A Guidebook for the Instructor of VLSI System Design, Lynn Conway, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, August 12, 1979.
- Carliss Y. Baldwin and Kim B. Clark (2000). Design Rules: The Power of Modularity. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-02466-7.
- National Research Council (1999), Funding a Revolution: Government Support for Computing Research, National Academy Press (excerpt)
- "The MOSIS Service – More than 50,000 designs in 25 years of operation", MOSIS Website, 2008.
- THE MPC Adventures: Experiences with the Generation of VLSI Design and Implementation Methodologies, Lynn Conway, Xerox PARC Technical Report VLSI-81-2, January 19, 1981.
- THE MPC Adventures: Experiences with the Generation of VLSI Design and Implementation Methodologies, by Lynn Conway, Microprocessing and Microprogramming – The Euromicro Journal, Vol. 10, No. 4, November 1982, pp 209-228.
- Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology, by Committee on Criteria for Federal Support of Research and Development, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington DC, 1995, page 75.
- "''Figure II.13: Technological Developments in Computing", in Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology, National Academy Press, Washington, DC 1995, page 75.''". Ai.eecs.umich.edu. 1999-05-07. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Evolving the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative to Support the Nation's Information Infrastructure, by Committee to Study High Performance Computing and Communications: Status of a Major Initiative, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington DC, 1995, page 20.
- "''Figure 1.2: Government-sponsored computing research and development stimulates creation of innovative ideas and industries", in Evolving the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative to Support the Nation's Information Infrastructure, National Academy Press, 1995, page 20.''". Ai.eecs.umich.edu. 1999-05-07. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- The VLSI Archive, by Lynn Conway, Electronic Design News, June 3, 2009.
- "''Lynn Conway's VLSI Archive". Ai.eecs.umich.edu. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Dwight B. Davis "Assessing the Stragetic Computing Initiative," by Dwight B. Davis High Technology, Vol. 5, No. 4, April 1985.
- "Hi-tech resarcher chips in to develop smart computer", Michelle Osborn, USA Today, June 7, 1983, p. 3B.
- "Lynn Conway awarded Emerita status at the University of Michigan", December 31, 1998
- Lanzerotti, Mary, ed. (2012). "Editor's Note". IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine (IEEE) 4 (4): 4. doi:10.1109/MSSC.2012.2214274.
- House, Chuck (2012). "A Paradigm Shift Was Happening All Around Us". IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine (IEEE) 4 (4): 32–35. doi:10.1109/MSSC.2012.2215759. ISSN 1943-0582.
- Sequin, Carlo (2012). "Witnessing the Birth of VLSI Design". IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine (IEEE) 4 (4): 36–39. doi:10.1109/MSSC.2012.2215758. ISSN 1943-0582.
- Shepard, Ken (2012). ""Covering": How We Missed the Inside-Story of the VLSI Revolution". IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine (IEEE) 4 (4): 40–42. doi:10.1109/MSSC.2012.2215757. ISSN 1943-0582.
- "Beautiful Daughters Cast: Lynn Conway", LOGO Channel, 2006
- "Class Notes: 2002 Inductees: Here's how many of our 2002 Hall Of Famers enjoy their leisure time and how they still give back to society", Doris Kilbane, Electronic Design, October 20, 2003.
- "Secrets Are Out: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender engineers are no longer willing to hide their true selves" Jaimie Schock, Prism Magazine, American Society of Engineering Education, October, 2011, pp. 44-47.
- "Status of translations of Lynn's webpages, 12-10-13". December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
- Olyslager F, Conway L (2008). Transseksualiteit komt vaker voor dan u denkt [Transsexualism is more common than you think]. Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies, Vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 39-51, 2008. (abstract in English)
- ""Profile: Lynn Conway," Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website". HRC. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "Biographies of famous LGBT people: Science: Professor Lynn Conway, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month website". Lgbthistorymonth.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Carey, Benedict (2007-08-21). "Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege". New York Times.
- Dreger, A. D. (2008). The controversy surrounding The man who would be queen: A case history of the politics of science, identity, and sex in the Internet age. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 366-421.
- VDay LA 2004 Commemorative Page, DeepStealth Productions, Los Angeles CA, 2004.
- "Beautiful Daughters", a documentary by Josh Aronson and Ariel Orr Jordan, LOGO Channel, 2006.
- "Computer pioneer speaks from the heart about diversity: Transsexual talks at HP, CSU", by Kate Forgach, Fort Collins Coloradoan, January 26, 2001.
- "Chipping Away at Prejudice", by Sarah Wildman, The Advocate, March 13, 2001.
- "What's pride got to do with it?", by Teri Warner, Employee Communications, Circuit for Employees@Intel, July 1, 2003.
- "Why HR should wake up to the needs of transsexual employees", by Christine Burns, Personnel Today, November 18, 2003.
- "Another Milestone in the Journey: GI and E Added to EEO Policy", Raytheon GLBTA NEWS, August – October 2005.
- "Dr. Kenneth Zucker's War on Transgenders". Queerty. February 6, 2009.
- Chagmion Antoine (March 6, 2009). "Transgender Crusader – A professor at the University of Michigan is taking on the psychiatric community's ideas about transgendered people and mental illness". CBS News / YouTube.
- "Trans Hero: Lynn Conway". Stonewall 40: Trans Heroes. International Court System. 2009.
- "Recognizing Outstanding Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Individuals in the Struggle for LGBT Equality". National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. June 10, 2009.
- Dana Beyer (January 8, 2014). "Leadership and the Value of Exceptional Allies". Huffington Post.
- "IEEE at a Glace". IEEE.
- "IEEE Code of Ethics". IEEE.
- Maureen McCarty (January 13, 2014). "The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Adopts LGBT-Inclusive Code of Ethics". HRC.
- Forman, Ross (2013-09-18) "Transgender pioneer reflects on sports past". Windy City Times.
- "The 1981 Achievement Award – Lynn Conway, Carver Mead" by Martin Marshall, Larry Waller, and Howard Wolff, Electronics, October 20, 1981
- "Penn Engineering: The Harold Pender Award".[dead link]
- "IEEE EAB Major Educational Innovation Award, 1984". Ieee.org. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- IEEE Alphabetical Listing of Fellows
- "Franklin Institute honors eight physicists", Physics Today, July 1985.
- "Secretary of Defense Meritorious Achievement Award, May 1985", Meritorious Service Award, May 1985.
- NAE Member Directory, Section 05. (year from The White House Office of the Press Secretary)
- "Society of Women Engineers: Achievement Award Winners.".[dead link]
- President Clinton Names Lynn Conway to the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors", The White House Office of the Press Secretary, January 31, 1996.
- "100 years of engineering excellence", Trinity Reporter, Trinity College, Hartford, CN, Winter 98.
- "Electronic Design Hall of Fame – 2002 Inductees", Electronic Design, October 21, 2002.
- "NOGLSTP to Honor Aberson, Conway, and Raytheon at Awards Ceremony in February", Press Release, National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, January 25, 2005.
- "The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Members of the Corporation". Draper.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "Computer History Museum, 2014 Fellow Awards
- "Illinois Institute of Technology, ITT Commencement", May 17, 2014.
- Lynn Conway's website – primarily written in English, but many articles are provided in other languages as well.