I Am A...
2020 Annual Conference
The ASEE 2020 Virtual Annual Conference content is available.
Earning her B.S. and M.S.E.E. from Columbia University, Lynn Conway joined IBM Research in 1964, where she made foundational contributions to computer architecture. Fired by IBM as she underwent gender transition in 1968, Conway started her career all over again under a covert new identity in 'stealth mode.' Rising rapidly through the ranks, she joined Xerox PARC in 1973. There she invented foundational new methods for silicon chip design, was principal author of the seminal text Introduction to VLSI Systems, and pioneered the teaching of the methods at MIT – thereby launching a worldwide revolution in microelectronic design in the late 1970's. She also invented an e-commerce infrastructure for rapid chip fabrication in 1979, spawning the "fabless design” + “silicon foundry" global industry model for semiconductor design and manufacturing.
As Assistant Director for Strategic Computing at DARPA, Conway crafted the meta-architecture and led the planning of the Strategic Computing Initiative, a major 1980's effort to build the technology base for intelligent weapons systems. She joined the University of Michigan in 1985 as professor of EECS and Associate Dean of Engineering, where she continued her distinguished career. Now retired, Conway lives with her engineer husband, Charles Rogers, on their 24-acre homestead in rural Michigan. They’ve been together 31 years.
After retiring, Conway came out about her past and created an informational website that’s provided hope and encouragement to transgender people all around the world. More recently, she has investigated how her seminal contributions became “invisible” over the decades, as if erased from history. Today she will reflect on deep lessons she’s learned regarding society’s blindness to contributions made by “others.”
Conway is a Fellow of the IEEE and the AAAS and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. She has received many high honors, including the Franklin Institute’s Wetherill Medal, the IEEE Computer Society’s Computer Pioneer Award, the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, and honorary doctorates from Trinity College, Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Victoria, and the University of Michigan. Awarded the James Clerk Maxwell Medal in 2015 by the IEEE and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, her citation included these words: “Lynn Conway’s work has provided the underpinnings for innovations, discoveries and achievements in every area of scientific and humanitarian study.”