In 2014, 20,000 eighth-grade students in the U.S. took the first technology and engineering test from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In the end, the girls outperformed the boys. Those findings make perfect sense. Women have always made invaluable contributions to technology and engineering, and the following computer science pioneers are just a few of those individuals.
1. Ada Byron
You might have heard of the British poet Lord Byron. But did you know that his daughter was an important computer visionary? Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, was born in 1815, and her single mother raised her to love science and math.
In 1843, Byron wrote an article forecasting a device that could create images and aid scientists. Plus, she conceptualized the computer program, which she imagined as a set of instructions that a machine could follow to make calculations.
Ada Byron was gravely ill throughout much of her life, and she died at 36. But her writings helped humankind imagine an exciting new world.
2. Grace Murray Hopper
Grace Murray Hopper’s career was fascinating and varied. She earned a PhD in mathematics from Yale and taught at Vassar. She worked at the Harvard University Computation Laboratory, and she became a rear admiral in the Navy.
Admiral Hopper died in 1992, yet her impact endures. She argued that programmers should share their work so that computers could evolve faster. She helped assemble computer compilers, systems that can translate programming languages and codes. She also labored to make programming more understandable to non-experts. As a result, more businesses were able to utilize computer technology.
3. Jean Jennings Bartik
In 1945, Jean Jennings ― she hadn’t yet married engineer William Bartik ― was a mathematician working for the Army. One day, she heard about a unique job opening. The position called for programming and operating a machine called the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). The ENIAC was one of the first computers capable of handling a multitude of functions. At the time, many male engineers were uninterested in this job, believing that it wouldn’t be worth their talents.
Bartik’s team made history by getting the ENIAC to run smoothly. Afterwards, Bartik was one of the developers of the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC), the first American computer to store programs, and the Universal Automatic Computer I (UNIVAC I). The UNIVAC I was intended for business use, and the U.S. Census Bureau ended up buying it.
4. Deborah Estrin
Deborah Estrin, a Cornell University professor and the daughter of distinguished computer scientists, is remarkably gifted and prolific. While teaching at UCLA, Estrin devised mobile tools that gather and evaluate data about their surrounding environments.
Additionally, she’s known for building application program interfaces that let users manage their personal data. On top of that, Estrin cofounded Open mHealth, a nonprofit that allows people to collect the medical information they need free of cost.
5. Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer, currently the CEO of Yahoo, studied computers and artificial intelligence at Stanford University. After receiving her master’s degree from that college, she became one of the first people that Google hired. She spent 13 years at that company, serving as an engineer, a spokesperson, and more. In 2012, she began leading Yahoo.
Yahoo has experienced recent challenges, including the loss of some top executives. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that Mayer will continue to shape the world of technology.
If you’re interested in a computer science career, the women above may be some of your inspirations. Whatever job you ultimately take, you’ll be doing your part to further the discipline to which these innovators dedicated themselves.