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Frances Allen, IBM Fellow and Computing Pioneer, Dies Aged 88

Frances Allen, IBM Fellow and Computing Pioneer, Dies Aged 88

Frances AllenIBM

App builders of today, you can thank Frances "Fran" Allen. The first IBM fellow to be a woman, as well as the first woman to win the Turing Award, Allen was a pioneer in the world of computing.

She died on August 4th, the day of her 88th birthday.

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Remembering Fran Allen

Best known for her work on compiler organization and optimization algorithms, Allen was integral in the world of computing we know today.

Allen spent her entire career working for IBM, for who she started working as a programmer in 1957. She retired in 2002 and remained in close connection with the company as a Fellow Emerita — the first woman in the company to gain the title.

During her career, Allen made strong contributions to compilers — which is essentially hardware that can read software. Her work also played in a large part in improving parallel computing, which helps tasks to be shared across a number of systems in order to be completed more rapidly.

Aside from her integral work in computers, Allen pushed forward women's work in the tech world. Moreover, she will be fondly remembered as a fervent mentor.

Receiving a number of accolades throughout her life, the two that stand out perhaps the most are her becoming an IBM Fellow in 1989, as well as receiving the Turing Award in 2006. She's not quite done receiving awards, though, as in 2022 IEEE will be naming an award after Allen: the IEEE Frances E. Allen Medal.

"Professionally, Fran spent a lifetime working to advance the field of computing and pioneer new breakthroughs. Personally, she was equally focused on inspiring and motivating young people – especially women – to do the same," said Fran’s nephew to IBM, Ryan McKee, regarding the IEEE honor.

Fran Allen was a pioneering person who will be sorely missed but well remembered.


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