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Turing Award Winner On His Pioneering Algorithms



Jack Dongarra’s dream job rising up was to show science at a public highschool in Chicago.

“I used to be fairly good in math and science, however I wasn’t a very good scholar,” Dongarra says, laughing.

After he graduated highschool, there was just one college he wished to attend: Chicago State. That’s as a result of, he says, it was recognized for “churning out academics.” Chicago State accepted his utility, and he determined to main in arithmetic.


His physics professor prompt that Dongarra apply for an internship on the Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, in Lemont, Sick., a close-by U.S. Division of Power science and engineering analysis heart. For 16 weeks he labored with a bunch of researchers designing and growing EISPACK, a package deal of Fortran routines that compute the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices—calculations frequent in scientific computing.

Dongarra acknowledges he didn’t have a background in or data of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—however he cherished what he was doing. The expertise at Argonne, he says, was transformative. He had discovered his ardour.

“I believed it was a cool factor to do,” he says, “so I stored pursuing it.”

About Jack Dongarra

Employer: College of Tennessee, Knoxville

Title: Professor emeritus, pc science

Member grade: Life Fellow

Alma mater: Chicago State College

The IEEE Life Fellow has since made pioneering contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries for linear algebra, which allowed software program to make good use of high-performance {hardware}. His open-source software program libraries are utilized in nearly each pc, from laptops to the world’s quickest supercomputers.

The libraries embrace fundamental linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra package deal LAPACK, parallel digital machines (PVMs), robotically tuned linear algebra software program (ATLAS), and the high-performance conjugate gradient (HPCG) benchmark.

For his work, he was honored this yr with the 2021 A.M. Turing Award from the Affiliation for Computing Equipment. He obtained US $1 million as a part of the award, which is named the Nobel Prize of computing.

“Once I take into consideration earlier Turing Award recipients, I’m humbled to consider what I’ve discovered from their books and papers,” Dongarra says. “Their programming languages, theorems, strategies, and requirements have helped me develop my algorithms.

“It’s an amazing honor to be this yr’s recipient. The award is a recognition by the computer-science group that the contributions we’re making in high-performance computing are vital and have an effect within the broader computer-science group and science normally.”

Dongarra didn’t find yourself instructing science to highschool college students. As an alternative, he turned a professor {of electrical} engineering and pc science on the College of Tennessee in Knoxville, the place he taught for 33 years. The college lately named him professor emeritus.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

After graduating from Chicago State in 1972 with a bachelor’s diploma in arithmetic, Dongarra went on to pursue a grasp’s diploma in pc science on the Illinois Institute of Expertise, additionally in Chicago. Whereas there he labored sooner or later per week for Argonne with the identical crew of researchers. After he bought his diploma in 1973, the lab employed him full time as a researcher.

With encouragement from his colleagues to pursue a Ph.D., he left the lab to check utilized arithmetic on the College of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He honed his data of linear algebra there and started understanding algorithms and writing software program.

He returned to Argonne after getting his doctorate in 1980 and labored there as a senior scientist till 1989, when he bought the chance to satisfy his dream of instructing.

He was supplied a joint place instructing pc science on the College of Tennessee and conducting analysis on the close by Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory which, like Argonne, is a Division of Power facility.

“It was time for me to check out some new issues,” he says. “I used to be able to attempt my hand at academia.”

He says Oak Ridge operated in an identical approach to Argonne, and the tradition there was kind of the identical.

“The problem,” he says, “was turning into a college professor.”

“The Turing Award is a recognition by the pc science group that the contributions we’re making in high-performance computing are vital, and have an effect within the broader pc science group and science normally.”

College tradition could be very completely different from that at a authorities laboratory, he says, however he rapidly fell into the rhythm of the tutorial setting.

Though he cherished instructing, he says, he additionally was interested in the chance the college gave its instructors to work on expertise they’re captivated with.

“You comply with your personal path and course of analysis,” he says. “I’ve prospered in that setting. I work together with good individuals, I’ve the flexibility to journey world wide, and I’ve collaborations occurring with individuals in lots of nations.

“Academia provides you this freedom to do issues and never be constrained by an organization’s drive or its motivation. Quite, I get to work on what motivates me. That’s why I’ve stayed in academia for thus a few years.”

Man with glasses and checkered shirt sitting in front of a Tektronix computer.
In 1980, Dongarra labored as a senior scientist at Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, in Lemont, Sick.Jack Dongarra

Dongarra based the college’s Revolutionary Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to offer instruments for high-performance computing to the scientific group. He additionally directs the varsity’s Middle for Info Expertise Analysis.

He’s now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he calls “a beautiful place, with its state-of-the-art tools and the newest computer systems.”

Software program for Supercomputers

It was working in artistic environments that led Dongarra to provide you with what many describe as world-changing software program libraries, which have contributed to the expansion of high-performance computing in lots of areas together with synthetic intelligence, knowledge analytics, genomics, and well being care.

“The libraries we designed have fundamental parts which are wanted in lots of areas of science in order that customers can draw on these parts to assist them resolve their computational issues,” he says. “That software program is transportable and environment friendly. It has all of the attributes that we would like by way of being comprehensible and offering dependable outcomes.”

He’s at present engaged on making a software program library for the world’s quickest supercomputer, Frontier, which lately was put in on the Oak Ridge lab. It’s the first pc that may course of greater than 1 quintillion operations per second.

Laptop-Science Recognition

Dongarra has been an IEEE member for greater than 30 years.

“I get pleasure from interacting with the group,” he says in explaining why he continues to belong. “Additionally I get pleasure from studying IEEE Spectrum and journals which are related to my particular subject.”

He has served as an editor for a number of IEEE journals together with Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Laptop Structure Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Techniques.

Dongarra says he’s an enormous promoter of IEEE conferences and workshops, particularly the Worldwide Convention for Excessive Efficiency Computing, Networking, Storage, and Evaluation, sponsored by ACM and the IEEE Laptop Society, of which he’s a member. He’s been attending the occasion yearly since 1988. He has gained many awards on the convention for his papers.

“That convention can be a homecoming for the high-performance computing group,” he says, “and IEEE performs a significant function.”

IEEE is pleased with Dongarra’s contributions to computing and has honored him over time. In 2008 he obtained the primary IEEE Medal of Excellence in Scalable Computing. He additionally obtained the 2020 Laptop Pioneer Award, the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, the 2011 IEEE Charles Babbage Award and the 2003 Sidney Fernbach Award.

“I’m very glad and proud to be a member of IEEE,” he says. “I believe it offers a useful service to the group.”

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