Allen will become the first woman to win the Turing Award, an award given out annually by the Association for Computing Machinery and sponsored by Intel Corporation. The recipient is selected based on technical contributions to the computing world. The Turing Award is dedicated to the memory of British mathematician Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954), who made major contributions to the field of computer science in the 1940s and 1950s.
In the early 1950s, Allen received her bachelor’s degree in education from the Albany State Teachers College (what is now called State University of New York at Albany). She, then, received her master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.
She became employed with IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) Research in 1957 where she taught the programming language FORTRAN (Formula Translation). As she progressed with IBM, Allen pioneered the field of optimizing compilers, which involves the translation of software programming code into language useable for hardware.
In the 1980s, Allen created a method for running a computer program with multiple processors in order to improve its efficiency and speed. This work called parallel translation (Ptran) resulted in the use of algorithms and other such technologies within computers. This influential work founded the theory of program optimization and, ultimately, to the use of compliers in the commercial computer industry.
Allen was appointed an IBM Fellow in 1989, the first woman with such an honor—the highest technical honor presented by IBM. She was also the president of the IBM Academy of Technology, which promotes the advancement of computing within technical professionals.
In 1997, Allen was inducted into the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame. At the time of her WITI honor, IBM senior vice president Paul Horn said of Allen: "Fran Allen is truly one of the pioneers in the computer industry. We are delighted that she is being recognized by her peers throughout the industry. She is an excellent role model for young women wishing to excel in the computer industry."
Allen is recognized at IBM for her work with mentoring other IBM employees. The Frances E. Allen Women in Technology Mentoring Award is named in honor of her work in promoting the careers of men and women at IBM. Allen was the first recipient of the award. Allen retired from IBM in 2002. Currently, she is an IBM Fellow Emeritus, recognized for her work in mentoring women and men in technology.
She has also received the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Award, the Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award, the Ada Lovelace Award, and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGPLAN’s Programming Languages Achievement Award.
For additional information about Fran Allen, go to: http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/witexhibit/wit_hall_allen.html.