Turing Award Winner On His Pioneering Algorithms

ByMabel R. Acton

Jul 28, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jack Dongarra’s aspiration job escalating up was to train science at a general public large university in Chicago.

“I was rather excellent in math and science, but I wasn’t a specifically superior student,” Dongarra says, laughing.

Soon after he graduated higher university, there was only 1 university he required to go to: Chicago State. That’s since, he claims, it was recognized for “churning out instructors.” Chicago State recognized his software, and he decided to major in mathematics.


His physics professor suggested that Dongarra utilize for an internship at the Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, in Lemont, Sick., a close by U.S. Division of Electrical power science and engineering investigation middle. For 16 months he worked with a team of researchers building and acquiring EISPACK, a bundle of Fortran routines that compute the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices—calculations widespread in scientific computing.

Dongarra acknowledges he didn’t have a track record in or know-how of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—but he liked what he was carrying out. The working experience at Argonne, he states, was transformative. He had uncovered his enthusiasm.

“I imagined it was a great matter to do,” he suggests, “so I kept pursuing it.”

About Jack Dongarra

Employer: University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Title: Professor emeritus, personal computer science

Member grade: Daily life Fellow

Alma mater: Chicago State University

The IEEE Everyday living Fellow has given that manufactured groundbreaking contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries for linear algebra, which authorized application to make excellent use of substantial-general performance components. His open up-supply application libraries are employed in just about just about every computer, from laptops to the world’s speediest supercomputers.

The libraries involve basic linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra deal LAPACK, parallel digital devices (PVMs), quickly tuned linear algebra software package (ATLAS), and the substantial-general performance conjugate gradient (HPCG) benchmark.

For his work, he was honored this 12 months with the 2021 A.M. Turing Award from the Affiliation for Computing Machinery. He gained US $1 million as component of the award, which is recognized as the Nobel Prize of computing.

“When I imagine about preceding Turing Award recipients, I’m humbled to consider about what I have learned from their publications and papers,” Dongarra suggests. “Their programming languages, theorems, approaches, and specifications have aided me build my algorithms.

“It’s a incredible honor to be this year’s receiver. The award is a recognition by the pc-science neighborhood that the contributions we are producing in large-effectiveness computing are essential and have an affect in the broader laptop-science local community and science in basic.”

Dongarra didn’t close up teaching science to high college pupils. Instead, he grew to become a professor of electrical engineering and pc science at the College of Tennessee in Knoxville, where by he taught for 33 yrs. The university not too long ago named him professor emeritus.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Right after graduating from Chicago Condition in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in arithmetic, Dongarra went on to go after a master’s degree in pc science at the Illinois Institute of Know-how, also in Chicago. Whilst there he labored one working day a 7 days for Argonne with the same group of scientists. Soon after he got his diploma in 1973, the lab hired him complete time as a researcher.

With encouragement from his colleagues to go after a Ph.D., he left the lab to examine utilized arithmetic at the College of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He honed his know-how of linear algebra there and commenced doing work out algorithms and writing software program.

He returned to Argonne immediately after obtaining his doctorate in 1980 and labored there as a senior scientist till 1989, when he got the prospect to fulfill his dream of teaching.

He was offered a joint posture training laptop science at the University of Tennessee and conducting investigation at the nearby Oak Ridge Countrywide Laboratory which, like Argonne, is a Section of Power facility.

“It was time for me to consider out some new items,” he suggests. “I was prepared to test my hand at academia.”

He suggests Oak Ridge operated in a similar way to Argonne, and the tradition there was additional or less the exact same.

“The obstacle,” he suggests, “was getting a college professor.”

“The Turing Award is a recognition by the laptop science local community that the contributions we are producing in higher-overall performance computing are significant, and have an influence in the broader personal computer science group and science in standard.”

College tradition is very distinct from that at a govt laboratory, he says, but he rapidly fell into the rhythm of the educational setting.

Though he beloved instructing, he claims, he also was captivated to the possibility the university gave its instructors to operate on technological know-how they are passionate about.

“You stick to your own path and program of investigation,” he says. “I’ve prospered in that environment. I interact with smart people, I have the skill to travel close to the environment, and I have collaborations going on with persons in lots of international locations.

“Academia gives you this flexibility to do items and not be constrained by a company’s drive or its commitment. Alternatively, I get to operate on what motivates me. Which is why I’ve stayed in academia for so a lot of decades.”

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

Dongarra launched the university’s Progressive Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to supply tools for higher-performance computing to the scientific group. He also directs the school’s Center for Information and facts Technological innovation Analysis.

He is now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he phone calls “a great place, with its condition-of-the-art machines and the hottest computer systems.”

Software for Supercomputers

It was doing the job in artistic environments that led Dongarra to come up with what numerous explain as environment-modifying software libraries, which have contributed to the development of superior-general performance computing in lots of locations which includes synthetic intelligence, data analytics, genomics, and overall health treatment.

“The libraries we developed have fundamental factors that are necessary in many locations of science so that consumers can attract on people elements to aid them clear up their computational troubles,” he states. “That program is moveable and efficient. It has all the attributes that we want in phrases of remaining comprehensible and furnishing reputable effects.”

He’s at the moment doing the job on producing a application library for the world’s quickest supercomputer, Frontier, which just lately was put in at the Oak Ridge lab. It is the initial pc that can approach more than 1 quintillion operations for every 2nd.

Laptop-Science Recognition

Dongarra has been an IEEE member for a lot more than 30 yrs.

“I delight in interacting with the group,” he claims in describing why he carries on to belong. “Also I get pleasure from examining IEEE Spectrum and journals that are appropriate to my precise discipline.”

He has served as an editor for numerous IEEE journals which include Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Personal computer Architecture Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Techniques.

Dongarra states he’s a big promoter of IEEE meetings and workshops, in particular the Intercontinental Convention for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Investigation, sponsored by ACM and the IEEE Laptop Modern society, of which he is a member. He’s been attending the event each individual year since 1988. He has won numerous awards at the convention for his papers.

“That meeting is seriously a homecoming for the large-general performance computing local community,” he claims, “and IEEE plays a important role.”

IEEE is happy of Dongarra’s contributions to computing and has honored him around the many years. In 2008 he acquired the very first IEEE Medal of Excellence in Scalable Computing. He also gained the 2020 Laptop or computer Pioneer Award, the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, the 2011 IEEE Charles Babbage Award and the 2003 Sidney Fernbach Award.

“I’m quite delighted and happy to be a member of IEEE,” he suggests. “I believe it delivers a precious service to the local community.”