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Home > Computer Articles > Women In Computer History

Women In Computer History

Computers as we now know them have around for a relatively short time. However the overall history of the computer goes back much further. The origins of computers date back to the 1800’s with the creation of the analytic engine, which assisted people with simple tasks. One of the early pioneers of computing was a woman – Ada Byron King.

Ada Byron King was one of the first people to work on the early forerunner of today’s computer, and she blazed the trail for other women in computing. King was followed by others such as Edith Clarke, Grace Murray Hopper, Margaret Fox, Alice Burks and Joan Margaret Winters. Each of these women were part of the women in computer movement.

Over the years women have played an important role in the development of computers and computer technology. Here is a timeline of notable events in the history of women in computing over the past one hundred and fifty years:

Women in Computer Pioneers:

  • 1842: Ada Lovelace, analyst of Charles Babbage's analytical engine and described as the "first computer programmer"
  • 1942: Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood diva and co-inventor of an early form of spread-spectrum broadcasting
  • 1946: Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Fran Bilas, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff, and Ruth Lichterman, original programmers of the ENIAC
  • 1949: Grace Hopper, first programmer for the Mark I Calculator, known as the "Mother of COBOL"

Women In Computing Innovations:

  • 1962: Jean E. Sammet, mathematician and computer scientist; developed FORMAC programming language. Was the first to write extensively about history and categorization of programming languages (1969).
  • 1965: Mary Allen Wilkes computer programmer; First person to use a computer in a private home and the first developer of an operating system (LAP) for the first minicomputer (LINC)
  • 1968: Barbara H. Liskov, first American female Doctorate of Computer Science (1968), winner of the Turing prize 2009
  • 1972: Karen Spärck Jones, pioneer of information retrieval and natural language processing
  • 1979: Carol Shaw, becomes a game designer and programmer for Atari Corp. and Activision
  • 1983: Adele Goldberg, one of the developers and designers of the Smalltalk language
  • 1984: Roberta Williams completes groundbreaking work in graphical adventure games for personal computers.
  • 1984: Susan Kare, created the icons and many of the interface elements for the original Apple Macintosh in the 1980s, was an original employee of NeXT, working as the Creative Director.
  • 1985: Radia Perlman, invented the Spanning Tree Protocol. Has done extensive and innovative research, particularly on encryption and networking. USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award 2007, among numerous others.
  • 1985: Irma Wyman, first Honeywell CIO
  • 1986: Hannah Smith begins work for CRASH (magazine)
  • 1988: Eva Tardos, winner of the Fulkerson Prize for her research on design and analysis of algorithms

Modern Women In Computers:

  • 1993: Shafi Goldwasser, computer scientist and two-time recipient of the Gödel Prize for research on complexity theory, cryptography and computational number theory, and the invention of zero-knowledge proofs
  • 1993: Barbara Liskov along with Jeannette Wing develops the Liskov substitution principle
  • 1994: Sally Floyd, becomes famous for her work on Transmission Control Protocol
  • 1996: Xiaoyuan Tu, first woman recipient of the ACM's Doctoral Dissertation Award.
  • 1997: Anita Borg, the founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology.
  • 2004: Jeri Ellsworth, self-taught computer chip designer and creator of the C64 Direct-to-TV
  • 2005: Mary Lou Jepsen, Founder and chief technology officer of One Laptop Per Child which is an intitiative to get computers for all children.
  • 2006: Frances E. Allen, first female winner of the ACM's Turing Award

More Information About Women In Computing:

Women have been instrumental in the development of computers over the years. To recognize the achievement of women, we have gathered a collection of resources:

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