is a famed pioneer of microelectronics chip design. Her innovations
during the 1970's at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
have impacted chip design worldwide. Many high-tech companies
and computing methods have foundations in her work.
her B.S. and M.S.E.E. degrees from Columbia University in 1962
and 1963. She began her career at IBM Research at Yorktown Heights,
NY, in 1964, moving on later to work at Memorex Corporation,
at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and at the Defense
Advanced Research Project's Agency (DARPA). Concurrent with
her work at Xerox PARC, she served as Visiting Associate Professor
of EECS at M.I.T. in 1978-79. She joined the University of Michigan
in 1985 as Professor of EECS and Associate Dean of the College
of chip designers learned their craft from Lynn's book, Introduction
to VLSI Systems, which she co-authored with Professor Carver
Mead of Caltech. Thousands more did their first VLSI design
projects using the government's MOSIS prototyping system, which
is based directly on Lynn's work at PARC. Much of the modern
silicon chip design revolution is based on her work.
simplifying and demystifying the previously extremely complex
process of silicon chip design, the work of the Mead-Conway
team was largely responsible for the rapid progress in VLSI
chip design and design tools in the 80's. Taken together, Lynn's
many diverse contributions to computer architecture, VLSI design
and internet-based chip-prototyping have greatly enhanced later
progress in microelectronics, computing and information technology.
Lynn went on to win many awards and high honors, including election
as a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, the highest
professional recognition an engineer can receive.
one knew until recently is that Lynn also did earlier pioneering
research at IBM in the 60's. Fresh out of graduate school, she
invented a powerful method for issuing multiple out-of-order
instructions per machine cycle in supercomputers. By solving
this fundamental computer architecture problem back in 1965,
she enabled creation of the first true superscalar computer,
and participated in its design. Lynn called her invention dynamic
instruction scheduling (DIS).
90's, chips held enough transistors so that entire superscalar
computers could be put on single chips. Lynn's DIS invention
suddenly became used in almost all the powerful new PC chips,
making them much more powerful than they would otherwise have
been. Lynn's work thus had yet another very major impact on
the modern information technology revolution.
thought DIS was a generalization of decades of work, having
no idea it had been invented in 1965. It caused Lynn great angst
to see her wonderful invention so widely used and described
in all the computer architecture textbooks, without anyone knowing
it was her idea.
this oversight have happened? Why did Lynn remain silent for
over three decades about her important IBM work? The reason
is that IBM had terminated Lynn's promising young research career
in 1968, firing her after learning that she was undergoing transsexual
transition from male to female. She had then gone outside the
U.S. to complete her transition, come back and started her life
all over again.
completing her gender transition in 1968, Lynn took a new name
and identity and then restarted her technical career at the
bottom of the ladder, as a newly-hired contract programmer at
Computer Applications, Inc. Ever so happy and fulfilled in her
new life, Lynn's new career blossomed. She went on to work at
Memorex Corporation during 1969-72, and rapidly climbed back
up the ladder as a digital system designer and then as a computer
While at Memorex, Lynn quickly established a promising new professional
identity as a successful woman engineer. She did this while
in "stealth mode" - i.e., without people knowing of
those early pioneering years of gender transition, Lynn had
to keep her past a secret just to survive, much less build a
career. It was a scary time, because any "outings"
could well have ended her new career and seriously threatened
her chances for a productive and fulfilling life.
successful in this effort, moving on to join the Xerox Palo
Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1973 where she did her creative
VLSI systems work, and the rest is history.
innovations in VLSI design were of strategic significance not
only in the commercial sector, but also in the defense industry.
As a result, she was recruited in the early 80's by the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). At DARPA she became
a key technical architect and leader of planning of the DoD's
"Strategic Computing Initiative" (SCI), serving in
DoD's Senior Executive Service as Assistant Director for Strategic
Computing at DARPA.
for Lynn to enter this assignment, her past had to be quietly
and secretly vetted by the Defense Investigative Service (DIS).
Unlike the frequent firings and employer rejections of individuals
known to have transitioned in the civilian sector at the time,
Lynn was able to obtain the required approvals and Top Secret
clearance, and thus move into her new position at DARPA.
a major program in high-performance computing, machine intelligence,
autonomous systems and intelligent weapons technologies created
to forestall Soviet aims during the height of the Cold War.
Reporting to Dr. Robert Cooper, Director of DARPA and Assistant
Secretary of Defense, Lynn led the effort that produced the
Strategic Computing Plan in November 1983, and then went on
to guide the program during its formative years.
of SCI research include new paradigms in intelligent systems
that now help to underpin modern defense technology, especially
in areas such as battle-management systems, intelligent weapons
and autonomous land, sea and air vehicles.
Ms. Conway was recruited by the University of Michigan as Professor
of EECS and Associate Dean of Engineering. There she contributed
to many research and educational initiatives during the period
of rapid expansion of the College of Engineering onto the University's
North Campus in the 1980's and 90's. Lynn's research work at
Michigan focused on visual communications and control, and she
has received five U.S. Patents for visual communications and
Lynn retired from active faculty status in December 1998 as
Professor of EECS, Emerita. She lives with her husband Charlie
(also an engineer) and their four cats, on a 23 acre homestead
in rural Michigan out to the west of Ann Arbor. Charlie and
Lynn enjoy sharing many interests and pastimes, and have been
together for over 17 years now.
computer historians searching for the origins of DIS were becoming
aware of Lynn's early innovative work at IBM. Facing a difficult
choice of what to do after 31 long years of living in stealth,
Lynn gradually and quietly began "coming out". She
began by using her website to inform colleagues, hoping to tell
her story in her own words rather than have it just spill out.
story became increasingly widely read over the following years,
and her website, http://www.lynnconway.com, has gradually evolved
into a heavily-accessed, highly-respected informational site
on the topics of transgenderism, transsexualism and gender transition.
also consulted with a number of high-tech firms on equal opportunity
hiring and employment protections for transgender and transsexual
workers, sensing that many of these companies are highly committed
to diversity and inclusiveness and thus are receptive to ensuring
their policies reflect that commitment. Many high-tech firms
have already adopted such protections, including major firms
such as Apple, HP, Intel, Kodak, Lucent, NCR, Verizon Wireless,
Xerox and yes - even IBM!
that her story, and the stories of many hundreds of others who
have successfully transitioned, will help more companies understand
the importance of such protections to those involved, and the
benefits that accrue to companies that provide them.
Conway has received many major awards for her research contributions,
including the Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute, the
Pender Award of the Moore School at the University of Pennsylvania,
the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Achievement Award, the
Electronics Award for Achievement, Xerox Corporation's recognition
as a Xerox Research Fellow, the National Achievement Award of
the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the GLBT Engineer of the
Year Award from the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian
Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), an honorary
doctorate from Trinity College, election as a Fellow of the
IEEE (Lynn was the 12th woman to be so elected), election to
the National Academy of Engineering, and election to the Electronic
Design Hall of Fame.
Lynn has also served on many significant committees and boards,
including the Editorial board of IEEE Spectrum magazine, numerous
committees of the National Science Foundation and the National
Academy of Engineering, and the U.S Air Force Scientific Advisory
Board. She has served on the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Air
Force Academy (a Presidential appointment (more)), as a Member
of the Corporation of the Draper Lab, as a member of NASA's
Office of Space Science Task Force on Technology Readiness,
and as a Member of the Council of the Government-University-Industry
Research Roundtable (GUIRR) and also of the Air Force Science
and Technology Board of the National Academies.