Women in Computer Science

Margaret Hamilton (born 1936)

Margaret was director of the software engineering division of the Massachusetts Institute of technology’s (MIT) instrumentation lab

She wrote on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo space mission.

The photograph shows Margaret standing beside a printout of the code (yes that’s the actual size)! She is one of the people credited with coining the phrase “software engineering”. When Hamilton started using the term “software engineering” during the early Apollo missions, software development was not taken seriously compared to other types of engineering, nor was it regarded as a science. Over time the term “software engineering” gained the same respect as any other technical discipline.

Grace Hopper (1906 – 1992)

Grace Hopper wrote the first modern compiler and created the COBOL programming language. She also helped to build UNIVAC-1 (the first business computer).

She studied Maths and Physics at university. During World War II she served in the US navy. While working at Harvard University, her team discovered a moth stuck in a computer relay. She recorded this in the logbook as “First actual case of a bug being found”. Although the term “bug” was already used to mean “malfunction”, this was the first time the term had been applied to computers.

Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000)

Hedy Lamarr was a famous Hollywood actress and considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. What a lot of people don’t know, is that she was also an inventor with a creative and curious mind.

During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, an emerging technology in naval war, could easily be jammed and set off course. So, in 1941 she invented the frequency-hopping technology that led on to technologies such as secure wi-fi, GPS and Bluetooth, now used by billions of people around the world.

Ada Lovelace (1815- 1852)

A gifted mathematician who worked alongside Charles Babbage, she is generally considered the world’s first programmer and computer scientist.

Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) named in her honour. Her idea that that numbers can represent other things – in fact, anything we choose – is the basis of computing today. Ada had a vision for the world’s first programmable general-purpose computer a century before anybody built one. Her contributions, however, went unappreciated until the 1950s.

Roberta Williams (born 1953)

Roberta Williams Is the world’s first graphic computer game developer. In 1980, her first game Mystery House became a modest commercial success and is credited as the first graphic adventure game. She is also known for creating and maintaining the King’s Quest series, as well as designing the full motion video game Phantasmagoria in 1995.

Several publications have named Roberta Williams as one of the best or most influential creators in the video game industry, for co-founding Sierra, pioneering the graphic adventure game genre, and creating the King’s Quest series. She has been called the “Queen of adventure games”.