Frances E. Allen

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For the early American nun, see Frances Allen (nun).
Frances Elizabeth "Fran" Allen
Allen mg 2528-3750K-b.jpg
Born (1932-08-04) August 4, 1932 (age 84)
Peru, New York, United States[1]
Nationality American
Fields Computer science
Institutions IBM, New York University[2]
Alma mater

State University of New York at Albany,

University of Michigan
Known for High-performance computing, parallel computing, compiler organization, optimization
Notable awards Turing Award (2006)
Computer Pioneer Award (2004)
Computer History Museum Fellow (2000)

Frances Elizabeth "Fran" Allen (born August 4, 1932, Peru, New York, United States) is an American computer scientist and pioneer in the field of optimizing compilers. Her achievements include seminal work in compilers, code optimization, and parallelization. She also had a role in intelligence work on programming languages and security codes for the National Security Agency.[3][4]

Allen was the first female IBM Fellow and in 2006 became the first woman to win the Turing Award.[5]


Allen grew up on a farm in Peru, New York and graduated from The New York State College for Teachers (now State University of New York at Albany, SUNY) with a B.Sc. degree in mathematics in 1954.[6] She earned an M.Sc. degree in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1957 and began teaching school in Peru, New York.[7] Deeply in debt, she joined the Thomas J. Watson Research Center at IBM on July 15, 1957, where taught incoming employees the basics of FORTRAN. Although she planned to stay only until her school loans were paid that were ordered[clarification needed] for the Los Alamos National Lab. Although she only intended to stay at IBM for a few years, she ended up staying for her entire 45-year career.

To quote her A.M. Turing Award citation:

Fran Allen's work has had an enormous impact on compiler research and practice. Both alone and in joint work with John Cocke, she introduced many of the abstractions, algorithms, and implementations that laid the groundwork for automatic program optimization technology. Allen's 1966 paper, "Program Optimization," laid the conceptual basis for systematic analysis and transformation of computer programs. This paper introduced the use of graph-theoretic structures to encode program content in order to automatically and efficiently derive relationships and identify opportunities for optimization. Her 1970 papers, "Control Flow Analysis" and "A Basis for Program Optimization" established "intervals" as the context for efficient and effective data flow analysis and optimization. Her 1971 paper with Cocke, "A Catalog of Optimizing Transformations," provided the first description and systematization of optimizing transformations. Her 1973 and 1974 papers on interprocedural data flow analysis extended the analysis to whole programs. Her 1976 paper with Cocke describes one of the two main analysis strategies used in optimizing compilers today. Allen developed and implemented her methods as part of compilers for the IBM STRETCH-HARVEST and the experimental Advanced Computing System. This work established the feasibility and structure of modern machine- and language-independent optimizers. She went on to establish and lead the PTRAN project on the automatic parallel execution of FORTRAN programs. Her PTRAN team developed new parallelism detection schemes and created the concept of the program dependence graph, the primary structuring method used by most parallelizing compilers.

Allen was a professor at New York University from 1970–73.[2] Allen became the first female IBM Fellow in 1989. In 2007, the IBM Ph.D. Fellowship Award was created in her honor.[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Portrait of Fran Allen receiving the Erna Hamburger Distinguished Lecture Award at the EPFL, May 6, 2008

Allen is a Fellow of the IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). In 2000, she was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for her contributions to program optimization and compiling for parallel computers."[9] She is currently[when?] on the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, the Computer Research Associates (CRA) board and National Science Foundation's CISE Advisory Board. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Philosophical Society.[citation needed] She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994.[10]

In 1997, Allen was inducted into the WITI Hall of Fame.[11] She retired from IBM in 2002 and won the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award that year from the Association for Women in Computing.

In 2007, Allen was recognized for her work in high performance computing when she received the A.M. Turing Award for 2006.[12] She became the first woman recipient in the forty-year history of the award, which is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for computing and is given by the Association for Computing Machinery. She was awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree at the winter commencement at SUNY at Albany.[13][14][15][16][17] In interviews following the award she hoped it would give more "opportunities for women in science, computing and engineering".[18] In 2009 she was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from McGill university for "pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimizing compilers and automatic parallel execution". In her lecture presented to the ACM, Allen describes her work.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abbate, Janet (August 2, 2001). "Oral-History:Frances "Fran" Allen". IEEE Global History Network. New Brunswick, New Jersey: IEEE History Center. Interview #573. Retrieved 19 June 2012. I was born August 4th, 1932, and I grew up on a farm, up in upstate New York. The town is Peru, New York.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ a b "First woman to receive ACM Turing Award".  External link in |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ IBM Corporation, "IBM Fellow becomes first woman to receive A. M. Turing Award"
  4. ^ Crump, Micheal, "Frances Allen's Computer Tipping", UAB Kaleidoscope magazine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, September 21, 2009.
  5. ^ Jr, S.; Guy, L. (2011). "An interview with Frances E. Allen". Communications of the ACM. 54: 39. doi:10.1145/1866739.1866752. 
  6. ^ Lohr, Steve (August 6, 2002). Scientist at Work: Frances Allen; Would-Be Math Teacher Ended Up Educating a Computer Revolution. New York Times
  7. ^ Lasewicz, Paul (April 5, 2003). Frances Allen interview transcript.
  8. ^ "IBM Creates Ph.D. Fellowship Award in Honor of First Female Turing Award Winner Fran Allen". 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2016-11-02. 
  9. ^ "Frances Allen". Computer History Museum. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  10. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  11. ^ WITI Hall of Fame
  12. ^ "Turing Award Citation". Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  13. ^ Perelman, Deborah (February 27, 2007). "Turing Award Anoints First Female Recipient". eWEEK. Ziff Davis Enterprise. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  14. ^ Associated Press (February 21, 2007). First Woman Honored With Turing Award.
  15. ^ "First Woman to Receive ACM Turing Award" (Press release). The Association for Computing Machinery. February 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  16. ^ Lombardi, Candace (February 26, 2007). "Newsmaker: From math teacher to Turing winner". Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  17. ^ Marianne Kolbasuk McGee (February 26, 2007). "There's Still A Shortage Of Women In Tech, First Female Turing Award Winner Warns". InformationWeek. CMP Media. Retrieved 2007-11-05.  Online February 24, 2007.
  18. ^ Thomas, Jeffrey (16 March 2007). "Turing Award Winner Sees New Day for Women Scientists, Engineers". Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  19. ^ Allen, Frances E. (2006). 2006 Turing Award Lecture. ACM. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 

External links[edit]