Frances E. Allen

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Frances E. Allen 2008

Frances Elizabeth "Fran" Allen (born August 4, 1932 in Peru , New York ; † August 4, 2020 in Schenectady , New York) was an American computer scientist and pioneer of compiler technology . Her merits include influential work on program optimization and parallelization . She is the first woman to receive the Turing Award and also the first female IBM Fellow .


Allen grew up as the oldest of six siblings on a farm with no electricity in Peru , New York State . In 1954 she graduated from Albany State Teachers College with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and taught for two years at the high school in Peru, which she had attended herself. After obtaining a Masters in Mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1957, she took a job as a programmer at IBM Research in Poughkeepsie , where she initially held Fortran courses without prior knowledge . Originally, she only wanted to pay off the cost of her studies and then be a teacher again, but ended up spending her entire 45-year career there.

In 1959 she was involved in the Stretch project , where she was responsible for compiler optimization and the development of the high-level cryptanalysis language Alpha for the NSA modification of the 7030 Stretch, 7950 Harvest . Then she was involved in the development of the compiler for the IBM ACS-1 and Gene Amdahl's IBM ACS-360 in California (and thus the computer itself, which should only be designed after the compiler), where she intensified her collaboration with John Cocke . Allen published much of this work in seminal papers and spent a sabbatical from 1970 to 1973 as visiting professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University with Jack Schwartz . Back at IBM she worked on the Future Systems project and experimental compiler construction.

In the early 1980s, on the advice of Irving Wladawsky-Berger, she founded the Parallel Translation Group (PTRAN), a group to research compilers for parallel computers . This developed into a leading research group for parallelization and produced fundamental algorithms and techniques for program optimization that are ubiquitous in today's compilers.

In the mid-1990s, the PTRAN group was closed due to a change in strategy by IBM, and Allen became the first full-time president of the IBM Academy of Technology in 1995 , in which she has been involved since it was founded in 1989 and which has the task of holding the technical positions from IBM to mediate the employees. In this position, Allen was also involved in BlueGene .

Allen officially retired in 2002, but continued to work as an IBM Fellow Emerita. a. with the concerns of women in the IT world.

In addition to her work at IBM, she was on the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council and the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Advisory Board of the National Science Foundation as well as on the Board of the Computing Research Association and the ACM Council. She was also a member of the Board of Advisors of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology ( Anita Borg had taken her compiler building course at NYU). She was a consulting professor at Stanford University , Chancellor's Distinguished Lecturer and Mackay Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley (1988 to 1989) and Regents Lecturer at the University of California, San Diego (1997).

Prizes and awards

Allen was the first woman to be awarded the title of IBM Fellow in 1989. She was a member of the National Academy of Engineering , the National Academy of Sciences , the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , and a Fellow of the IEEE , the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Computer History Museum . In 1991 the University of Alberta awarded her an honorary doctorate, as did Pace University in 1999 and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2004 . In 1997 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Women in Technology International (WITI). In 2006 she was the first woman ever to receive the Turing Award , the highest honor in computer science. In 2000, IBM created the Frances E. Allen Women in Technology Mentoring Award and named Allen as the first recipient. In 2007 the Fran Allen Ph.D. Fellowship Award set up to honor an outstanding doctoral student every year.


  • Program Optimization . 1966.
  • Control flow analysis . 1970.
  • A basis for program optimization . 1970.
  • With John Cocke : A Catalog of Optimizing Transformations . 1971.


  • Peter Seibel: Coders at Work: Important programmers and their success stories . mitp, 2011, ISBN 978-3-8266-9103-4 , chapter 13: Fran Allen , p. 437-464 (English: Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming . 2009. Translated by Reinhard Engel).

Web links

Commons : Frances E. Allen  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Obituary of Frances Elizabeth Allen. In: Hamilton Funeral. Retrieved August 7, 2020 .
  2. ^ Scientist at Work: Frances Allen; Would-Be Math Teacher Ended Up Educating a Computer Revolution. New York Times , August 6, 2002 (English).
  3. Paul Lasewicz: Frances Allen's oral history interview. (PDF; 116 kB) Transcript of the interview, IBM, April 16, 2003 (English).
  4. ^ Fran Allen ( Memento of February 23, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) in the WITI Hall of Fame, 1997 (English).
  5. IBM Creates Ph.D. Fellowship Award in Honor of First Female Turing Award Winner Fran Allen , IBM press release, October 19, 2007 (English).