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Famous Women in Computer Science

There have been several women behind important advancements in Computer Science. This page briefly describes just a few of them.

Meg Whitman has been the CEO of the popular online auction site eBay since March 1998 taking the company from fewer than 100 employees to over 9,000 employees world wide. Meg also was named the most powerful woman in business by Fortune magazine in 2004.
Carly Fiorina was a chairman of the board of Hewlett-Packard from 2000-2005 and CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999-2005. She was named the most powerful woman in business by Fortune magazine from 1998-2003. Currently she is a director at the Revolution Health Group and is on the board of Cybertrust, a large computer security firm.
Shafi Goldwasser, theoretical computer scientist, two-time recipient of the Godel Prize. She is the RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Goldwasser's research areas include complexity theory, cryptography and computational number theory. For more information click here.
Anita Borg, the founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology (IWT). Anita Borg died sadly in April of 2003 from brain cancer at the age of 54. Beginning in 1997, the institute was supported and funded by Xerox. Her goals for the institute were threefold:
  • bring non-technical women into the design process
  • encourage more women to become scientists
  • and help the industry, academia, and the government accelerate these changes.
Eva Tardos, recipient of the Fulkerson Prize in 1988 for her paper "A strongly polynomial minimum cost circulation algorithm". She is a professor and chair of the Computer Science department at Cornell University. For more information click here.
Barbara H. Liskov, became the first woman in the United States to be awarded a PhD from a computer science department, in 1968 from Stanford University.
Frances E. Allen, is an American computer scientist and pioneer in the field of optimizing compilers. She was also the first female recipient of the ACM'S Turing Award in 2006. Her achievements include seminal work in compilers, code optimization, and parallelization.
Erna Schneider in 1954, after teaching for a number of years at Swarthmore College, she began a research career at Bell Laboratories. While there, she invented a computerized switching system for telephone traffic, to replace existing hard-wired, mechanical switching equipment. For this ground-breaking achievement -- the principles of which are still used today -- she was awarded one of the first software patents ever issued (Patent #3,623,007, Nov. 23, 1971). At Bell Labs, she became the first female supervisor of a technical department.
Jean E. Sammet (1928), mathematician and computer scientist; developed FORMAC programming language. She spent 27 years at IBM where she developed FORMAC, the first widely used computer language for symbolic manipulation of mathematical formulas. She was also a member of the subcommittee which created COBOL.
Adele Goldstine was the wife of Dr. Herman Goldstine, who assisted in the creation of the ENIAC, the world's first electronic digital computer, at UPenn in the 1940's. Adele Goldstine made an indelible contribution to the ENIAC project herself by authoring the Manual for the ENIAC in 1946. This original technical description of the ENIAC detailed the machine right down to its resistors.
Kay McNulty, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Ruth Lichterman, Betty Jennings, and Fran Bilas, original programmers of the ENIAC. ENIAC, short for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, was the first large-scale, electronic, digital computer capable of being reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems.
Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 - January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy officer. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I calculator, and she developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. For more information click here. Image of Grace Hopper at work on a UNIVAC mainframe computer, courtesy of Computer History Museum
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852), is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Over one hundred years after her death, in 1953, Ada Lovelace's notes on Babbage's Analytical Engine were republished after being forgotten. The engine now has been recognized as an early model for a computer and Ada Lovelace's notes as a description of a computer and software. On December 10, 1980, (Ada's birthday), the U.S. Defense Department approved the reference manual for its new computer programming language and named it after her, "Ada".

Additions suggested by Sun Women in Engineering (Thanks to Katy Dickinson Director, Business Process Architecture, Chief Technologist's Office & Sun Labs, Sun Microsystems)