Today, the ACM announced the winner of the Turing award. For those who don’t know, the Turing award is the greatest award in computer science – the CS equivalent of the Nobel prize, or the Fields medal.
The winner: Fran Allen. The first woman ever to win the Turing award. And the first Turing award winner that I’ve personally known. Fran deserves it, and I’m absolutely overjoyed to see her getting the recognition she deserves. Among her many accomplishments, Fran helped design Fortran and create the worlds first optimizing compiler.
One of my fondest memories of work is from 8 years ago. My advisor, Lori Pollock, was up for tenure. Fran was picked as one of the outside reviewers for her tenure case. So in the course of doing the review, she read the papers that Lori and I wrote together – and liked them. The next time she was in my building, she came to my office to introduce herself and talk to me about the papers I’d written. I was absolutely stunned – Fran Allen came looking for me! to talk to me!
Since then, I’ve learned that that’s just the kind of person she is. Fran is a brilliant woman, one of the smartest people I’ve had to opportunity to meet: a person who has done amazing things in her career. And she’s also one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. She’s approachable and friendly, and has searched out many junior researchers to give them a bit of encouragement. She’s been a mentor to more people that I could hope to count. She’s just a thoroughly amazing person.
I can’t even begin to say how happy I am for her. She’s earned the greatest award that exists for computer science, and I’m thrilled to see that the ACM recognized that. And knowing Fran, I’m particularly happy that she’s the first woman recipient of the award, because she’s worked so hard in her career to help women overcome the biases of so many people in the mathematical sciences.