Amazing Women in Computer Programming History

In the early days of computing, most programmers were men. However, a few notable women have made their mark in coding history. Here are five of them:


Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and author best known for her work on the Analytical Engine, Charles Babbage’s mechanical general-purpose computer. She presented the first algorithm designed to be executed by such a computer and was the first to realize that the machine had uses beyond simple calculation. She is frequently considered as the first computer programmer as a result. Lovelace was the only legitimate child of legendary Romantic poet Lord Byron.


Grace Hopper (1906-1992)

Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and naval officer who helped develop the first compiler for a computer programming language. She also helped create the COBOL programming language, which is still in use today. During World War II, Hopper made an attempt to serve in the Navy but was turned down due to her age (34). Instead, she enlisted in the Navy Reserve. Business, financial, and administrative systems for organizations and governments generally employ COBOL. Applications running on mainframe systems, like those for sizable batch and transaction processing operations, still frequently employ COBOL.


Jean Bartik (1924-2011)

Jean Bartik was one of the original programmers of ENIAC, one of the earliest computers. She helped design the first software for early computers. After completing her studies in mathematics, Bartik started working at the University of Pennsylvania, first computing ballistics trajectories manually and eventually using an ENIAC. Betty Holberton, Ruth Teitelbaum, Kathleen Antonelli, Marlyn Meltzer, and Frances Spence were the other five ENIAC programmers. Since the ENIAC was the first of its type, Bartik and her coworkers defined and standardized many of the principles of programming while working on it.


Lynn Conway (1938-Present)

Lynn Conway is a computer scientist who pioneered many advances in computer chip design. She designed generalized dynamic instruction handling while working at IBM in the 1960s, which became a crucial development in out-of-order execution, a technique utilized by most contemporary computer systems to increase performance. In the field of very large scale integrated (VLSI) microchip design, she started the Mead-Conway VLSI chip design revolution. That revolution extended quickly throughout the research institutions and computing sectors in the 1980s, creating the contemporary “foundry” infrastructure for chip design and manufacture, an emergent electronic design automation business, and a wave of significant high-tech entrepreneurs in the 1980s and 1990s.


Anita Borg (1949-2003)

Anita Borg was a computer scientist and engineer who worked on developing networking technologies for computers. She started working for Digital Equipment Corporation in 1986 where she created and received a patent for a process for producing full address traces for use in high-speed memory system analysis and design. She got into email communication because of her experience operating the rapidly-expanding Systers mailing list, which she started in 1987. She created MECCA, an email and Web-based system for interacting in virtual communities, while working as a consultant engineer in the Network Systems Laboratory. Borg departed the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1997 and started working as a researcher in the Xerox PARC Office of the Chief Technology Officer. She started the Institute for Women and Technology shortly after joining Xerox, having already started the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in 1994.


These women have made incredible contributions to the world of coding and computing, and continue to inspire young coders today. So don’t forget about them when you’re coding – they paved the way for all of us!



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