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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 pupil,” 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 identified for “churning out lecturers.” Chicago State accepted his utility, and he determined to main in arithmetic.


His physics professor instructed that Dongarra apply for an internship on the Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, in Lemont, Ailing., a close-by U.S. Division of Vitality science and engineering analysis heart. For 16 weeks he labored with a gaggle of researchers designing and creating EISPACK, a bundle 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 information of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—however he beloved what he was doing. The expertise at Argonne, he says, was transformative. He had discovered his ardour.

“I assumed it was a cool factor to do,” he says, “so I saved 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 embody primary linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra bundle LAPACK, parallel digital machines (PVMs), mechanically 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 realized from their books and papers,” Dongarra says. “Their programming languages, theorems, methods, 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 neighborhood that the contributions we’re making in high-performance computing are vital and have an effect within the broader computer-science neighborhood and science typically.”

Dongarra didn’t find yourself educating science to highschool college students. As a substitute, he grew to become 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 Know-how, additionally in Chicago. Whereas there he labored sooner or later every week for Argonne with the identical crew of researchers. After he obtained 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 information of linear algebra there and started figuring out 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 obtained the chance to meet his dream of educating.

He was supplied a joint place educating 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 Vitality 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 changing into a college professor.”

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

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

Though he beloved educating, he says, he additionally was drawn to the chance the college gave its instructors to work on expertise they’re enthusiastic about.

“You comply with your individual path and course of analysis,” he says. “I’ve prospered in that atmosphere. I work together with good individuals, I’ve the power to journey around the globe, 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. Moderately, I get to work on what motivates me. That’s why I’ve stayed in academia for therefore 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, Ailing.Jack Dongarra

Dongarra based the college’s Modern Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to supply instruments for high-performance computing to the scientific neighborhood. He additionally directs the college’s Heart for Data Know-how Analysis.

He’s now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he calls “a beautiful place, with its state-of-the-art gear and the most recent 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 primary elements which are wanted in lots of areas of science in order that customers can draw on these elements to assist them remedy their computational issues,” he says. “That software program is transportable and environment friendly. It has all of the attributes that we wish 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 neighborhood,” 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 Programs.

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 neighborhood,” he says, “and IEEE performs a serious position.”

IEEE is happy 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 completely satisfied and proud to be a member of IEEE,” he says. “I feel it offers a worthwhile service to the neighborhood.”

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