Lynn Conway, computing pioneer and transgender advocate, dies at 86

Lynn Conway, computing pioneer and transgender advocate, dies at 86

Transgender Pioneer

Lynn Conway, a pioneering computer scientist who was fired by IBM in the 1960s after informing managers that she was transgender, passed away on June 9 in Jackson, Mich. She was 86. Her husband, Charles Rogers, said she died in a hospital from complications of two recent heart attacks.

In 1968, after leaving IBM, Ms. Conway was one of the earliest Americans to undergo transition surgery. She kept her transition a secret for 31 years, living in “stealth” mode due to career reprisals and safety concerns.

Despite these challenges, she rebuilt her career, eventually joining the famed Xerox PARC laboratory where she significantly contributed to designing computer chips.

Lynn Conway’s trailblazing legacy

Ms. Conway publicly disclosed her transition in 1999 and became a prominent advocate for transgender rights. In 2020, IBM formally apologized to her in a ceremony viewed by 1,200 employees. Diane Gherson, then an IBM vice president, acknowledged Conway’s pioneering role and expressed deep regret for her challenges.

Ms. Conway’s technological innovations were crucial to developing personal computers and cellphones and bolstered national defense, although her contributions were often overlooked. Conway’s legacy as both a computing pioneer and an advocate for transgender rights will be remembered for her significant contributions and her enduring fight for equality.

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