But her new interest in engineering was tempered by a dark secret. At a very young age, Lynn became aware that the male body she had been born into wasn’t the right fit. Growing up for Lynn was a confusing and miserable time; her parents divorced when she was seven and there was literally no one she could talk to. She became painfully shy and depressed.
Oddly, it was a social situation that started bringing Lynn out of her shell. When she was ten, Lynn’s mother sent Lynn and her younger brother to a 10-week wilderness camp in upstate New York. At first Lynn was terrified, but soon came to enjoy everything about the camp, where she learned to swim, ride, go boating, shoot a .22 rifle, and fish. The camp inspired in Lynn a lifelong love of the outdoors.
Lynn entered a “tomboy” phase after camp and was better able to cope with life - until puberty hit, leaving her in agony over her rapidly changing body, which was becoming decidedly more male in appearance.
It was at this time that Christine Jorgenson’s story became public, sparking hope in Lynn for her own future. At school, Lynn scored very high on aptitude tests in math and science and started to get more attention from her teachers. She excelled at her studies and especially enjoyed the thrill of creating something using math and physics. At sixteen, she built a telescope and took a picture of the moon! Lynn also became a bit more social, joining the band (she played trombone, and quite well), as well as the youth symphony orchestra.
But there was still the dark secret. As she grew older, the desire to become female became an overwhelming need. After graduating from high school, she started at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when she was only 17. She did quite well the first few years, but a deep depression during her junior year after a failed first attempt to transition led to her dropping out of college in 1959.
Lynn spent the next two years traveling and camping, reconnecting with nature and finding herself. In 1961, she returned to school, this time attending Columbia University. She finished her bachelor’s degree in 1962 and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1963.
While finishing her master’s, Lynn worked part-time for a medical company repairing hearing aids. It was there that she met a co-worker named “Sue,” who became smitten with the then-male Lynn. Their relationship was awkward and strange from the beginning. Somehow it led to an equally awkward and strange marriage which produced two daughters, whom both Lynn and Sue adored.
With a growing family, Lynn needed a good job -- which she found in 1964, when IBM-ACS (Advanced Computing Systems) invited her to join a special research team who were designing and building a powerful new supercomputer. Lynn’s contribution to the project was the creation of Dynamic Instructional Scheduling (DIS), a now-classic technique for multiple out-of-order instruction issuance widely applied in high performance microprocessors today. Before this revolutionary innovation, computers ran much slower, due to a “bottleneck” in instruction issuance that left functional units standing idle while they waited for stalled instructions. With DIS, computers ran far more efficiently.
Lynn would not be able to take credit for this remarkable achievement for another 30 years.