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Fran Allen: 1932-2020

By Simson Garfinkel, Eugene H. Spafford

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 63 No. 10, Pages 18-19

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Frances E. Allen, an American computer scientist, ACM Fellow, and the first female recipient of the ACM A.M. Turing Award (2006), passed away on Aug. 4, 2020—her 88th birthday—from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Allen was raised on a dairy farm in Peru, NY, without running water or electricity. She received a BS degree in mathematics from the New York State College for Teachers (now the State University of New York at Albany). Inspired by a beloved math teacher, and by the example of her mother, who had also been a grade-school teacher, Allen started teaching high school math. She needed a master's degree to be certified, so she enrolled in a mathematics master's program at the University of Michigan. There she took one of the first courses ever offered in computer programming. Fran interviewed with IBM on campus and took their offered job with the intent of paying off her student loans before pursuing her intended career as a teacher.


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