Mark A. Franklin, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the Engineering school at Washington University in St. Louis for four decades, died Tuesday, May 25, 2021, of complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Berkeley, California. He was 81.
Franklin joined the faculty at Washington University in 1970 and retired in 2011 as the Hugo F. and Ina Champ Urbauer Professor of Engineering. His work focused on computer architecture and parallel processing approaches and pioneered unique mappings between algorithms and novel hardware design. He co-wrote several books and more than 100 technical papers.
Franklin founded and directed the Washington University Computer and Communications Research Center (CCRC), an interdepartmental research center between computer science and electrical engineering that focused on research problems at the interface between digital hardware, algorithms and software. In 1994, he helped to initiate the undergraduate degree program in computer engineering and became its director.
In addition, Franklin was a cofounder of Exegy Inc., founded in 2003 and built upon the research of Ronald Indeck, then the Das Family Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering; Ron Cytron, professor of computer science & engineering; Franklin; and Roger Chamberlain, professor of computer science & engineering. The team developed and patented a means to process large amounts of data orders of magnitude faster than conventional methods. Franklin was a co-author with these cofounders of nearly 30 U.S. and international patents. Since Exegy was founded, continued improvements have led to more than 129 domestic and international patents.
“Mark had a playful curiosity when it came to research, and he delighted in spending time brainstorming new approaches for computer architecture, Cytron said. “I knew I could walk into his office with one idea, have an honest and critical discussion, and leave with two or three new ideas. Even in retirement, on the last visit we had, he mentioned getting together to write a proposal. I will miss him greatly as a friend and colleague.”
Franklin was actively involved in research groups, including serving as former chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Computer Architecture. He also was vice chair of Association of Computing Machinery, Special Interest Group on Computer Architecture. He was an IEEE Fellow and a Professional Engineer in Missouri.
Franklin earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in literature and one in engineering, from Columbia University’s 3/2 program; a master’s degree from Columbia University, and a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University. Before earning a doctorate, he worked in the data processing division of Honeywell Inc.
Franklin is survived by two children: son and daughter-in-law Jonathan and Caroline Ajo-Franklin of Houston, and daughter and son-in-law Laura and Andrew Franklin-Hall of Toronto and New York City; five grandchildren; and a brother and sister-in-law, David and Fran Franklin.
A memorial service will be held in early fall 2021. To attend in-person or virtually, please contact Jonathan.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memorial contributions may be made in Franklin’s name to the Nature Conservancy, Hillel at Washington University in St. Louis, or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.