Frances Allen: first woman to win Turing Award

Frances Allen was has become the first woman to receive the prestigious Turing Award since it was set up in 1966.

Allen is a fellow at IBM and was given the award for her achievements in optimising computer programs and high-performance computing systems.

She is a former maths teacher and was also an important player in US code-breaking activities during the Cold War.

The Turing Award is given to people who make contributions that are of “lasting and major technical importance to the computer field”. It was set up in honour of Alan Turing who is called a “father” of modern computing and who worked at code-breaking site Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Allen became the first female fellow at IBM in 1989. Her work, according to the award committee, has produced computing techniques that we rely on today in business and technology. She didn’t even intend to pursue a career in computing, only joining IBM, she said, to pay off her tuition debt from university. The plan was to go back to teach high school maths, but fortunately for the computing world she stayed at the company.

Correction: this story is true, but it’s not new! Allen received the award in 2007, no idea why I got sent a press release on it now.. sorry!