Celebrating Computing Women, Part II

Here is the second installment of biographies about female computer pioneers by volunteer blogger, Heather Elizabeth Ross.

Betty Holberton(1917 – 2001)

Betty Holberton, born Frances Elizabeth Snyder, attended the University of Pennsylvania. On her first day of classes, she was reportedly told by a professor to quit wasting her time attempting a mathematics degree and stay home and raise children. Holberton instead switched her major to journalism. Holberton was later hired by the Moore School of Engineering to be one of the “computors” to work on ENIAC, the world’s first electronic digital computer. She became the Chief of the Programming Research Branch of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory at the David Taylor Model Basin in 1959. While there, she helped to develop UNIVAC, the first commercial mainframe computer, wrote the first generative programming system (SORT/MERGE), and the first statistical analysis package for the 1950 U.S. Census. Holberton worked with John Mauchly to develop the C-10 instructions for BINAC, considered one of the origins of modern programming languages. She then worked with Admiral Grace Murray Hopper to develop the early programming standards of COBOL and FORTRAN. Holberton created commands, developed the numeric keypad and is responsible for the beige color of computers. She received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association of Women in Computing in 1997.

Jean Bartik(1924- 2011)

Jean Bartik, born Elizabeth Jennings, was one of the more frequently recognized women of the ENIAC group. After majoring in mathematics at Northwest Missouri State Teachers College, she was hired by the University of Pennsylvania to work as a programmer forArmy Ordnance at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1945. There she met Kay McNulty and with her, took a position as one of the first programmers of ENIAC. Once ENIAC became a stored computer program, Bartik continued to work on the project. She also worked on the BINAC and UNIVAC I computers. She was an editor for Auerbach Publishers, and worked for Data Decisions. Bartik earned an MS in English from the University of Pennsylvania and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Northwest Missouri State University. Northwest Missouri State University re-named its computer museum in her honor. She received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association of Women in Computing in 1997, was inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall Of Fame and in the same year, received the Computer History Museum Fellows Award in 2008, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award in 2009.

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