Top 3 female computer scientists

Computer science needs more women, but it’s not as there haven’t been some already. I proudly present the three most important female computer scientists.

Ada LovelaceIn 1815, a time when women were discouraged to participate in science, Ada Lovelace was born as the daughter of the poetic Lord Byron. Her mother got her homeschooled in math and science. When she was 27, she translated an article about Babbages Analytical Engine and added a description to compute Bernoulli numbers with it. The Right Honourable Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace wrote the first program in history.

Ten years later the “Enchantress of Numbers”, as Babbage called her, died from cancer. She envisioned the use of computers back then. Maybe Babbage could have promoted his machines through her writing skills, if she had lived longer. The computer revolution could have taken place a hundred years earlier.

A hundred years later a women called Grace Murray Hopper joined the US Navy. There she worked on some early computers and created the term “debugging”, when they found a moth in the computer relays. Shortly leaving the army she helped to build the first commercial computer, the UNIVAC. The Cobol programming language is mainly based on her philosophy to use english instead of machine language. “Amazing Grace”, as she was called sometimes, was a good presenter, often getting standing ovations after lectures.

Leah Culver planning her laptop etchingThen there is Leah Culver. Well, Leah didn’t make an important contribution to computer science apart from getting a degree. She just had this cool idea to laser-etch her laptop and got declared the sexiest geek of 2006, what gives me the possibility to catch you with a sexy picture.

The first women to win the Turing Award (the Nobel prize of computer science) is Frances Allen. “Fran” is a pioneer in the field of optimzing compilers. Her current title is IBM Fellow Emerita, “a position at IBM, which doesn’t require or allow any useful work, in terms of strategies in the company’s current business.”

Do you agree with my placement? Whom would you put at place four and five?

Update: more women in computer science

Published in: on September 6, 2007 at 3:04 pm  Comments (19)  

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  1. Do a search on Adele Goldberg. She leaded the team which created Smalltalk, and was had a very important influence on the development of the idea of GUIs.

  2. Er… Not “was had a very important influence”, but “was higly influential”. Sorry, had no coffee today.

  3. Elizabeth Rather, Monica Lam

  4. Thanks for your comments!

    It seems as if women like languages and compilers? Hopper (Cobol, Fortran), Allen (optimization), Goldberg (Smalltalk) and Rather (Forth), Lam (Dragon book).

  5. It’s nice to see someone recognizing women in the mostly male-run technology fields.

  6. For what it’s worth, my “top 5 male computer scientists” list would probably be language/compiler folks as well.

    This list is a damn shame. If it weren’t for the female-sounding names, I wouldn’t know or care who these ladies are. Their contributions are marginal. A mean thing to say, but it’s true.

  7. Not sure why you would consider the first computer programmer and the woman who invented COBOL to be “marginal,” anonymous. What kind of contribution would be required for someone to be important?

  8. Hopper didn’t invent COBOL, and it’s not known whether Ada or Babbage wrote that program (either way, it was by no means a remarkable feat).

  9. Barbara Liskov!

  10. Every contribution is important. But the contributions made by these ladies have had relatively little impact on the field. For the most part, they’re only notable because they are women.

  11. You make it sound like women in the technological fields and women in Nascar are the same thing. -,-*

  12. I can agree that Lovelace is only important because she is a women, but Hopper and Allen did important work. Hopper had a leading role in several important projects. Allens work isn’t really visible, because it disappears inside complex compilers.

    Maybe i shouldn’t have written the paragraph about Culver. She isn’t one of the top three (!).

  13. Yes, they are pioneers. But if they were men, their achievements would not have landed them on any “top 5 computer scientists” list.

  14. So it shows that woman can also do things what man can do…hehehe ciao

  15. You can hardly expect to see many women making huge contributions to computer science. I mean, come on. Up until recently women were strongly discouraged from entering scientific fields. My mother’s first major in university was Math, but she was bullied into switching to Arts instead (she ended up in French). I feel very lucky to have had the support I did through school.

    On the other hand, it’s well known that the percentage of computer science students who are women has been dropping. So I don’t really see things change. I don’t really see why it matters, though. Progress is more important than the sexual orientation of whoever created it.

  16. […] women in computer science That post about the Top 3 female computer scientists was more controversial, than i had thought. Maybe i shouldn’t have included Culver. […]

  17. I agree with Gillian. As with almost all jobs, it wasn’t until the turn of the last century were women given more leeway in terms of career advancement.

    This turn of the century occurrence has actually provided opportunities for many women to make budding careers in Computer Science. In fact, most small software companies and businesses that I know prefer female analysts because of their knack for being thorough and organized.

    This does not, however, mean that these women are generally accepted in this largely male industry. We still have a long way to go. Let’s give it our all, ladies.

  18. Wow, thats some piece of history that I never knew..
    For the 4th & 5th positions Id place Carly Fiorina (former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard) &
    Meg Whitman (CEO and President, eBay)

  19. I was doing a componet for my science project the asks to talk about three specific woman and talk about there signicance. I found your info so helpful. Thanks!!!


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