The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has awarded the A.M. Turing Award to Frances Allen, a computer scientist at IBM and the first woman to receive the prestigious prize.

Allen, a fellow emerita at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, was given the award for her contributions in the area of program optimisation, a way of modifying a program to run more efficiently and improve performance. The award is named after the British mathematician A.M. Turing and includes a $100,000 prize.

In particular, ACM cited Allen's work in automatic program parallelisation, which allows programs to use multiple processors to improve speed. The group said her efforts "contributed to advances in the use of high-performance computers for solving problems such as weather forecasting, DNA matching, and national security functions."

The group will present the award to Allen at a ceremony in June.