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IBM Apologizes For Firing Computer Pioneer For Being Transgender...52 Years Later

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Lynn Conway received an honorary doctorate and delivered the Winter 2018 commencement address at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

In 1968, IBMs CEO fired Lynn Conway for reasons that are illegal today.

Credit: Daryl Marshke/University of Michigan Photography

You've likely never heard of 82-year-old computer scientist Lynn Conway, but her discoveries power your smartphones and computers. Her research led to successful startups in Silicon Valley, supported national defense, and powered the internet.

Long before becoming a highly respected professor at the University of Michigan, Conway was a young researcher with IBM. It was there, on August 29, 1968, that IBM's CEO fired her for reasons that are illegal today. Nearly 52 years later, in an act that defines its present-day culture, IBM apologized and sought forgiveness.

On January 2, 1938, Lynn Conway's life began in Mount Vernon, NY. With a reported IQ of 155, Conway was an exceptional and inquisitive child who loved math and science during her teens. She went on to study physics at MIT and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Columbia University's Engineering School.

In 1964, Conway joined IBM Research, where she made major innovations in computer design, ensuring a promising career in the international conglomerate (IBM was the 7th largest corporation in the world at the time). Recently married and with two young daughters, she lived a seemingly perfect life. But Conway faced a profound existential challenge: she had been born as a boy.


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