Lynn Conway (1938-2024)

An obituary
Lynn Conway.
Lynn Conway Xerox
Lynn Conway Xerox PARC (1977)
Buchtitel „Introduction to VLSI Systems“ (Autoren: Carver Mead und Lynn Conway)

Lynn Conway, a visionary in the field of digital computing, a pioneer in the field of chip design in microelectronics and a fierce advocate for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ-T people around the world, passed away on June 9, 2024 at the age of 86.

Born in Mount Vernon, New York, in 1938, she showed an early curiosity for the physical world. She studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Columbia University.

At IBM Research, she made fundamental contributions to computer architecture, including the invention of Dynamic Instruction Scheduling (DIS), a method of issuing multiple unscheduled instructions per machine cycle. This innovation was critical to the development of ultra-high performance computers and later became a standard in PC chips. In 1968, Conway was dismissed from IBM due to her gender reassignment. She continued to work as a contract programmer under a new identity and continued her career.

In 1973, she was recruited by the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC). There she invented scalable design rules for Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) chip design that revolutionized microchip design. Her groundbreaking work led to the development of ultra-high performance computers and made chip design more accessible and efficient.

Conway received numerous awards, including the Computer Pioneer Award from the IEEE Computer Society and the IBM Corp. Lifetime Achievement Award. She held five US patents and received honorary doctorates from various universities.

Despite discrimination due to her gender reassignment, Conway has been a tireless advocate for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ-T people. She created the website as a forum for trans women and men and became a respected activist.

Conway is survived by her husband, the love of her life, Charles "Charlie" Rogers. Her legacy is one of groundbreaking contributions to technology and a profound impact on the lives of the people she touched.


Prof. Jürgen Becker at the online dinner talk with Lynn Conway on the occasion of SOCC 2022 in Belfast

Personal words from Prof. Jürgen Becker on the death of Lynn Conway

I am highly dismayed and deeply saddened by the sudden death of my friend Lynn Conway!

Lynn triggered in the early/mid-80ies with her famous textbook "Introduction to VLSI Systems" the so-called "Mead & Conway wave" within the worldwide chip development activities. This novel principle of "decoupling design and fabrication" was crucial for the automatable realization and scalability of today's highly complex microchips, and has myself as a young student also thematically brought in this direction - being continued until today!

After we invited Lynn as invited dinner speaker for the IEEE SOCC 2022 conference in Belfast, I have enjoyed our biweekly online meetings tremendously over the past two years and have been very much inspired in different topics of socio-technological evolution including the current challenges of the reliable integration of AI-based system solutions.

It was really a great honor and pleasure to have personally known this unique chip pioneer and legend of the Silicon Valley!

I will greatly miss you and your courageous, charismatic spirit as my mentor and friend!

RIP Lynn!

Current information on the funeral services

A laying in state is planned for Friday, June 21, 2024 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Sherwood Funeral Home, Grass Lake. A celebration of Lynn's life will also be held there on Saturday, June 22, 2024, at 1 p.m.

Link to funeral home with more information, guest book and photos

Link to the Sherwood Funeral Home Facebook page with livestream of the ceremony

Further links

Article on the occasion of Lynn Conway's death in the Los Angeles Times

Website of Lynn Conway

Transcript of the dinner talk on 06.09.2022 at the IEEE-SOCC 2022 in Belfast