Karen Spärck Jones lecture 2011

Language understanding and information processing

Fran Allen

The 2011 lecture is to be delivered by Fran Allen, who will begin this inaugural lecture by briefly reviewing Karen Spärck Jones’s early and very significant contributions in the late 1950s to the theory and practice of natural language processing and information retrieval. Fran will go on to discuss her own experience in the early 1960s with a code-breaking system for the US National Security Agency, followed by a discussion of a real-time, any-language-to-any-language phone translation system developed by Yuqing Gao at IBM Research and deployed in Iraq.

Watch the lecture

About the speaker

In 1989 Fran Allen became an IBM Fellow Emerita (its highest technical honour; the first woman to be appointed so) at the T. J. Watson Research Laboratory, with a speciality in compilers and program optimisation for high-performance computers. This work led to her being named the recipient of the 2006 Turing Award for pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimising compiler techniques, which laid the foundation for modern optimising compilers and automatic parallel execution. She was the first woman to receive the award. Allen has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Philosophical Society, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, ACM, IEEE, and the Computer History Museum. She is an active mentor and is especially interested in encouraging women computer scientists.

The ACM Turing Award Committee described Allen's contributions eloquently: "Fran Allen's work has led to remarkable advances in compiler design and machine architecture that are at the foundation of modern high-performance computing... Her contributions have spanned most of the history of computer science, and have made possible computing techniques that we rely on today in business and technology. It is interesting to note Allen's role in highly secret intelligence work on security codes for the organization now known as the National Security Agency, since it was Alan Turing, the namesake of this prestigious award, who devised techniques to help break the German codes during World War II." (ACM press release)