Frances E. Allen, the First Woman To Win the Turing Award, Dies At 88

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    Frances “Fran” Allen, a pioneer in the world of computing, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to win the Turing Award, died on August 4, 2020, the day of her 88th birthday. IBM writes in a blog post remembering Allen: As a pioneer in compiler organization and optimization algorithms, Fran made seminal contributions to the world of computing. Her work on inter-procedural analysis and automatic parallelization continues to be on the leading edge of compiler research. She successfully reduced this science to practice through the transfer of this technology to products such as the STRETCH HARVEST Compiler, the COBOL Compiler, and the Parallel FORTRAN Product. As much as Fran will be remembered for her technical vision and her foundational work in computing, she will equally be remembered for her passion to inspire and mentor others, fostering an environment of perseverance and hard work throughout the IBM community. Starting as a programmer, Fran’s first assignment at IBM was to teach the research community FORTRAN, a new complex language IBM had announced just three months before. This was the start of Fran’s career-long focus on compilers for high-performance computing. Following FORTRAN, Fran became one of three designers for IBM’s Stretch-Harvest project in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. As the language liaison with IBM’s client, the National Security Agency (NSA), Fran helped design and build Alpha, a very high-level code breaking language which featured the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system defined alphabets. An Experimental Compiler for IBM’s Advanced Computing System (ACS) became her next project. Fran designed and built the machine-independent, language-independent optimizing component of the compiler. The result was a tool to help drive the hardware design and a new way to analyze and transform programs. This work led to Fran’s seminal paper on Program Optimization, first published in 1966, describing a robust new framework for implementing program analysis and optimization as well as a powerful set of new algorithms. Fran’s 1970 paper on Control Flow analysis introduced the notion of “intervals” and node dominance relations, important improvements over the control flow abstractions given in her earlier paper. Her 1972 paper, “A Catalog of Optimizing Transformations,” identified and discussed many of the transformations commonly used today. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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