Lynn Conway

Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Emerita, University of Michigan

After earning her BS and MSEE from Columbia, Lynn joined IBM Research in 1964, where she made foundational contributions to computer architecture. Fired by IBM as she underwent gender transition in 1968, Lynn started her career over again in ‘stealth mode’.

Joining Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1973, Lynn invented powerful methods for silicon chip design, was principal author of the seminal text on the subject, and pioneered the teaching of the methods at MITlaunching a world-wide revolution in microelectronic design in the late 1970’s. Lynn also invented e-commerce infrastructure for rapid chip-prototyping, spawning the modern “fabless design” plus “silicon foundry” industrial model for semiconductor design and manufacturing. As Assistant Director for Strategic Computing at DARPA, Lynn led DOD’s 1980’s effort to build the US technology-base for intelligent weapons systems.

Lynn joined the University of Michigan in 1985 as Professor of EECS and Associate Dean of Engineering, where she continued her distinguished career. Now retired, she lives with her engineer husband Charles Rogers on their 24 acre homestead in rural Michigan. They’ve been together 30 years.

With growing pride in her accomplishments, Lynn quietly came out via the internet as she neared retirement in 1998. Her website, lynnconway.com, quickly became a beacon of hope for transgender people world-wide. In 2012, Lynn published her “VLSI Reminiscences”, finally revealing how – closeted and hidden behind the scenes – she conceived the ideas and orchestrated the events that shaped a vital industry.

Lynn has received many awards for her work, including election to the National Academy of Engineering and honorary doctorates from Trinity College, Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Victoria. In 2015 Lynn received the James Clerk Maxwell Medal from 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.”