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Nancy Ann Lynch

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Nancy Lynch helped define the theoretical underpinnings of distributed computing and has continued to impact all facets of the field. Among her many contributions, Dr. Lynch is best known for her work on impossibility results. With colleagues Michael Fischer and Michael Paterson in 1982, she proved that reaching a consensus is impossible in distributed computing systems if there may be even just one faulty process. Known as “FLP,” this has important implications for limitations on the power of distributed systems since no component has knowledge of what the rest of the system is doing. Dr. Lynch has proven impossibility results for many other situations, developing algorithms proving that much can actually be done in applications ranging from clock synchronization to resource allocation to data management to robot motion coordination. She also pioneered the “input-output automata” approach to verifying the correctness of algorithms. Dr. Lynch is currently the NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.