[SIGCIS-Members] In Memoriam - Fran Allen

burtgrad at aol.com burtgrad at aol.com
Thu Aug 6 10:04:16 PDT 2020

I think that this story is correct, but I may have a faulty memory. Anyway, let me share a story that doesn’t seem to be included anywhere in Fran Allen’s biography. Some time after I went to work for IBM in 1960, I believe that Fran was working for IBM in a small NY City research group and I was working in White Plains in the Data Processing Division for Bob Bemer. I was working on various business technical applications and somehow I was connected to Fran to ask her to work on the problem of how to cut the cloth for men’s suits so as to have the least waste material for different men’s sizes. I’ve forgotten who the original client was, but it was a major suit maker in the New York City area. I don’t remember what mathematical techniques she used, but the solution was quite elegant, was useful to the client, and had far broader use for other cloth cutting applications. She was a pleasure to work with, and really pushed us to accurately define the problem for her. 


Burt Grad


From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> On Behalf Of Brian Berg
Sent: Thursday, August 6, 2020 11:56 AM
To: SIGCIS Listserver <members at sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] In Memoriam - Fran Allen


Thank you for this important news.  The URL for that story is



She was also named a Computer History Museum Fellow in 2000:


and she was included in the video used at the start of many CHM events until fairly recently.


Brian Berg


On Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 12:47 PM Brian Randell <brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk <mailto:brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk> > wrote:


With great sadness I pass on this announcement from today’s issue of ACM Tech News:

> Frances E. Allen, First Female Recipient of ACM A.M. Turing Award, Dies at 88 
> IBM Research Blog
> August 5, 2020
> Frances Allen, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to be awarded the ACM A.M. Turing Award, has died at 88. A pioneer in compiler organization and optimization algorithms, Allen’s achievements in inter-procedural analysis and automatic parallelization continue to straddle the leading edge of compiler research. She served as IBM’s language liaison with the U.S. National Security Agency, helping to design and construct the high-level Alpha code-breaking language, which could generate new alphabets beyond system-defined alphabets. Allen designed and built the machine-independent, language-independent optimizing component of the Experimental Compiler for IBM's Advanced Computing System. An ACM Fellow, Allen also was a fellow of IEEE and of the Computer History Museum, was inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame, and and received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing.

I have happy memories of working alongside, and being highly impressed by, Fran Allen first at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, and then with the ACS Project in California, in the mid-1960s. Many years later, as a member of the Alan Turing Award Committee, I had the privilege of being involved with her receiving the Alan Turing Award. Her work with John Cocke at Yorktown Heights on optimising compilers was truly ground-breaking, an important early stage of a brilliant 45-year career at IBM, very appropriately marked by her Turing Award.

Let me encourage everyone who is not familiar with it to read the ACM Turing Award page about her - it is at https://amturing.acm.org/award_winners/allen_1012327.cfm

Kind regards

Brian Randell


School of Computing, Newcastle University, 1 Science Square, 
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5TG
EMAIL = Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk <mailto:Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk>    PHONE = +44 191 208 7923
URL = http://www.ncl.ac.uk/computing/people/profile/brianrandell.html

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