Karen Spärck Jones Lecture 2011

Karen Spärck Jones Lecture 2011

by Academy Admin

The 2011 lecture was delivered by Fran Allen, IBM Fellow Emerita at the T.J. Watson Research Laboratory.


'Language understanding and information processing'

Fran Allen began this inaugural lecture by briefly reviewing Karen Spärck Jones’ early and very significant contributions to the theory and practice of natural language processing and information retrieval in the late 1950s.

Allen then discussed her own experience with a code breaking system in the early 1960s for the US National Security Agency in the US, 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

Fran Allen is an IBM Fellow Emerita at the T. J. Watson Research Laboratory with a specialty in compilers and program optimisation for high performance computers. This work led to her being named the recipient of ACM’s 2006 Turing Award for pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimising compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimising compilers and automatic parallel execution.

The ACM 2006 Turing Award Committee described Allen's pioneering 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." 

(taken from ACM press release)

Allen was the first woman to receive the A.M. Turing Award and was also the first woman to be appointed, in 1989, as an IBM Fellow, the highest technical honour in IBM. 

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.