Happy Friday! Welcome to our fifth in a series of biographies of pioneering women in computing by our guest blogger, Heather Elizabeth Ross.
Sister Mary Kenneth Keller is thought to be first woman to obtain a PhD in computer science, doing so at the University of Wisconsin in 1965. She assisted in the development of the BASIC computer language at Dartmouth which allowed her use the computer center that was previously solely used by men. Keller believed that women should be involved in computer science, particularly in information specialization. She said, “We’re having an information explosion…and it’s certainly obvious that information is of no use unless it’s available.” An interest in advancements in artificial intelligence propelled Keller to found and direct the computer science department at Clarke College in Iowa for twenty years.
Karen Sparck Jones, whose work in information retrieval is still among the most influential and cited in the field; she worked at Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory from 1974-2002 as Professor of Computers and Information. Sparck concentrated her work on natural language processing and information retrieval. Her most notable contribution was the concept of inverse document frequency (IDF), which is still used to rank word frequency in most search engines today. She was the first woman to receive the Lovelace Medal awarded by the British Computer Society.