The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has given the 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 US-based T.J. Watson Research Centre, was given the award for her contributions in the area of programme optimisation, a way of modifying a programme to run more efficiently and improve performance.

In particular, ACM cited Allen's work in automatic programme parallelisation, which allows programmes 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 award is named after the British mathematician A.M. Turing and includes a $100,000 prize. The group will present the award to Allen at a ceremony in June.