18 Famous Female Computer Scientists That You Should Know

18 Famous Female Computer Scientists That You Should Know

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To celebrate scientists and scientific advancements, we have collected a list of the most famous female computer scientists that will inspire us for the greater good.

When it comes to computer scientists, men are often in the spotlight. Statistics show that women are grossly underrepresented in the field. 

But not this time! Today, women have been introduced to the realms of science and technology, opening up a whole new world for them. 

We reviewed information from authority publications such as A.M. Turing to bring you a list of women scientists who made computing what it is today. These scientists ventured into a new field for women and outshined the men.

It wasn’t a smooth journey for the female scientists. So put on your safety belt, and let’s go for an off-road adventure!

Famous Female Computer Scientists

#18. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852): The First Computer Programming Expert

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica 
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica 

What makes Ada Lovelace famous?

Ada Lovelace is undoubtedly one of the most influential people in the history of computer science. She was an English mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron.

She worked with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine—an early predecessor to today’s computers—and realized that it could be used as a rudimentary computer. This made her one of the first to realize that computers could be used for more than just calculating numbers. 

Lovelace also recognized that they could be programmed to perform other tasks. She is also known for being one of the first people to use the word “computer.” Ada Lovelace was of the first programmers who ushered in the era of software development.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#17. Frances Elizabeth Allen (1932-2020): One of IBM’s Influential Computer Programmers

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: IBM
Credits: IBM

What makes Frances Elizabeth Allen famous?

Frances Elizabeth Allen was an American computer scientist who is famous for her work in optimizing compilers. 

She contributed to optimizing compilers and played an essential role in developing parallelization methods leading to more efficient computing systems.

In addition to her work with compilers and parallelization techniques, Allen also helped develop program optimization techniques that reduce the time needed to run programs.

Frances Allen is the first woman recipient of the Turing Award (2006). She was also IBM’s first female fellow.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#16. Joan Clarke (1917-1996): The Nazi Code-Breaker

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: History Vs. Hollywood 
Credits: History Vs. Hollywood 

What makes Joan Clarke famous?

Joan Clarke was a British cryptanalyst famous for being one of the key people in the Enigma Project, breaking Nazi Germany’s communication code during World War II.

The Enigma Project was a group effort by many people, including Alan Turing, Clarke’s friend at Bletchley Park. This team cracked the code by analyzing thousands of messages sent through it over long periods.

Clarke and her team were able to intercept encrypted messages from German submarines. This changed the course of the war.

[Source: Scientific Women]

#15. Ida Rhodes (1900-1986): Pioneering Programmer Who Was Influential In The Computer Revolution 

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: PCMag
Credits: PCMag

What makes Ida Rhodes famous?

Born in Ukraine, Ida Rhodes became a pioneer in programming, co-developing the C-10 programming language with Betty Holberton. In addition to being an accomplished mathematician and computer scientist, she boasts of two encounters with one of the world’s famous scientists, Albert Einstein.

Ida Rhodes grew up in a time when women were not often seen as equal to their male counterparts. But despite this fact, she went on to become a successful mathematician and computer scientist. She is part of one of the first female programming teams in history.

[Source: IEEE Computer Society]

#14. Cecilia R. Aragon: Pioneering Data Scientist & Pilot

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: TED
Credits: TED

What makes Cecilia R. Aragon famous?

Cecilia R. Aragon is an American computer scientist who has made a name for herself in the field of data structures, specifically for her work on binary search trees.

Her first significant work in this field was co-developing one of the known binary search trees called a treap data structure. She received the Presidential Early Career Award for her work on data sets. Cecilia R. Aragon is a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle.

[Source: Washington]

#13. Elizabeth Feinler (1931-present): Mother of Networking

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: WIRED
Credits: WIRED

What makes Elizabeth Feinler famous?

Elizabeth Feinler is an American information scientist born in 1931 in Wheeling, West Virginia. She’s best known for pioneering the network information centers common in every modern workplace. 

She managed ARPANET and DDN (Defence Data Network), two massive networks that eventually became the foundation for the internet as we know it today. Elizabeth Feinler studied at West Liberty State College and later Purdue University.

[Source: Internet Hall of Fame]

#12. Annie Easley (1933-2011): One of The First Woman NASA Scientists

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Laidlaw Scholars Network 
Credits: Laidlaw Scholars Network 

What makes Annie Easley famous?

Annie Easley was a remarkable woman. She was born in 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama, and dedicated her entire life to making the world a better place.

Easley is best known for her software engineering work. She developed the rocket stages during her time at NASA. As a black woman working at NASA when few others could, she had to fight tooth and nail for the opportunity to do so. In fact, as one of the first black people to work at NASA, she was inducted into the Glenn Research Hall of Fame after her death.

[Source: NASA]

#11. Mary Wilkes (1937-present): The Woman Who Programmed The LINC Computer 

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Wellesley College
Credits: Wellesley College

What makes Mary Allen Wilkes famous?

Mary Allen Wilkes was born in Chicago in 1937. She is a computer programmer who contributed to the development of the LINC computer.

Wilkes has been called a “computer pioneer.” She is also known for her work on the LINC computer. The LINC (Laboratory Instrument Computer) was an early example of computer networking, allowing multiple computers to communicate.

Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory used this computer. This was Wilkes’ workplace for many years before moving on to work for the Computer Systems Lab at Washington University. In addition to being an influential scientist, Wilkes has also served as a lawyer in several cases involving intellectual property rights infringement.

[Source: The New York Times Magazine]

#10. Jean E. Sammet (1928-2017): The Pioneering Programmer Who Influenced The Computer Revolution 

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Mount Holyoke College 
Credits: Mount Holyoke College 

What makes Jean E. Sammet famous?

Jean E. Sammet was an American computer scientist most famous for creating FORMAC, a programming language that ran on IBM computers. She also contributed to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level languages used in business applications.

Born in 1928 in New York City, Sammet earned a degree in mathematics at Mount Holyoke College. After graduating, she studied at Columbia University, earning her Ph.D. in mathematics.

[Source: IEEE Computer Society]

#9. Henriette Avram (1919-2006): The Mother of Cataloging Who Developed The Machine Readable Format For Libraries

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Twitter
Credits: Twitter

What makes Henrietta Avram famous?

Born in 1919, Henrietta Avram is one of the most influential women in computing history. Her work produced a scheme for libraries to keep track of their information.

Henriette Avram was a computer programmer who developed the Machine Readable Cataloguing, or MARC format. Her work helped libraries to store information in a machine-readable format.

What’s the best Henrietta Avram quote?

“As I advanced in my career in librarianship. I have been a woman in a man’s world. However, this issue has not been an important factor in my thinking.”

[Source: Library of Congress]

#8. Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): NASA Hidden Figure whose legacy broke down the social barriers

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: epws.org
Credits: epws.org

What makes Katherine Johnson famous?

Katherine Johnson was an African-American mathematician who developed calculations crucial to US cruised spaceflights. She was one of the first African-American NASA scientists, where she served for 33 years.

Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. She became the first African-American female to enroll in a graduate school.

Katherine Johnson taught for some time before joining NASA as a “human computer.” During her time there, she calculated trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo missions, including the Apollo 11 mission that put astronauts on the moon in 1969. She also calculated launch windows for John Glenn’s 1961 Mercury mission.

Johnson received many honors throughout her life, including being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2015. In 2016 she was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures, which focuses on three African-American women working in NASA during the Space Race era.

What’s the best Katherine Johnson quote?

” I don’t have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I’m as good as anybody, but not better.”

[Sources: National Geographic, The New York Times]

#7. Lenore Blum (1942-present): The Math Genius Who Shaped the Modern Science

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Wikipedia 
Credits: Wikipedia 

What makes Lenore Blum famous?

Lenore Blum was born in New York City in 1942. She grew up during the Cold War and lived through many of the events that shaped the world we live in today.

Blum is well known for her contributions to cryptography and real number computation. She also made her name as an expert on pseudorandom number generation. 

Her work on pseudorandom number generation has been used to produce secure ways of generating numbers, which are essential for encryption mechanisms. In addition, Blum’s research has also contributed to other areas of mathematics and computer science, including integer factorization algorithms.

[Source: Mac Tutor]

#6. Mary Kenneth Keller (1913-1985): The Pioneering Computer Scientist

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: University of Wisconsin 
Credits: University of Wisconsin 

What makes Kenneth Keller famous?

Mary Kenneth Keller was born in 1913 in Cleveland, Ohio. She became one of the most influential women of her time.

Keller is known as a pioneer in computer science. She believed that computer science would be an essential tool for promoting education. It could also make it possible for people to access information at their fingertips without having to worry about how they were getting it.

Keller worked with Thomas E. Kurtz and John G. Kemeny to implement the BASIC programming language, which is still used today by millions of people around the world to run programs on their computers.

Besides being the first American to graduate with a Ph.D. in computer science, Keller also advocated for women’s rights throughout her career.

What’s the best Mary Kenneth Keller quote?

“We’re having an information explosion, among others, and it’s certainly obvious that information is of no use unless it’s available.”

[Source: University of Wisconsin]

#5. Sophie Wilson (1957-present): The Architect of The Modern Computing World

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Wikipedia
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Sophie Wilson famous?

Sophie Mary Wilson is an English computer scientist who played a crucial role in developing BBC Micro, one of the first personal computers ever made.

Sophie Mary Wilson was born in Leeds in 1957 and studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Cambridge. She went on to work at Acorn Computers, where she contributed to the development of BBC Micro—one of the most influential computers of that era. 

Her contributions to the BBC BASIC Programming Language were also highly influential, and her work helped lay the groundwork for the ARM architecture, which is used today in smartphones.

What’s the best Sophie Wilson quote?

“Overnight Success Takes 30 years.”

[Sources: Computer History Museum, Computer Weekly]

#4. Barbara Liskov (1939-present): The Architect of Modern Algorithms 

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Quanta Magazine 
Credits: Quanta Magazine 

What makes Barbara Liskov famous?

Barbara Liskov is one of the most important computer scientists of all time. She’s known for developing the Liskov substitution principle, which is essential in object-oriented programming and type theory.

Liskov was born in 1939 in Los Angeles, California. She earned her BA from the University of California and later obtained her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1968.

Barbara Liskov’s contributions to computer science are vast, but her work on data abstraction is particularly notable. It’s no wonder she was awarded the 2008 Turing award for her efforts.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#3. Shafi Goldwasser (1959-present): Award-Winning Computer Scientist

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: MIT CSAIL
Credits: MIT CSAIL

What makes Shafi Goldwasser famous?

Shafi Goldwasser was born in New York City in 1959. She is an Israeli-American computer scientist and mathematician who has contributed to several computer science fields, including cryptography.

She first gained notoriety for developing the zero-knowledge protocol, which allows two parties to exchange secret information without revealing it to each other (also known as zero-knowledge proof).

Goldwassser also proposed cryptosystems such as Blum-Goldwasser and Goldwasser-Micali systems. For her work on probabilistic encryption and other areas of computer science, she received the 2012 Turing Award.

[Source: Simons Institute]

#2. Radia Joy Perlman (1951-present): The Mother of The Internet

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: Western Governors University 
Credits: Western Governors University 

What makes Radia Joy Perlman famous?

Radia Joy Perlman was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. She is an MIT-educated scientist who became one of the top network experts today.

Radia Joy Perlman has made a name for herself as a computer programmer and inventor. She is best known for her invention of the Spanning-Tree Protocol (STP), which is used in network bridges. She also contributed to many other protocols, such as link-state routing.

[Source: Internet Hall of Fame]

#1. Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992): One of The First Computer Software Programmers in The World

Famous Female Computer Scientists : Credits: S Moda EL PAÍS
Credits: S Moda EL PAÍS

What makes Grace Hopper famous?

Grace Hopper was a computer scientist who served as US Navy rear admiral. She was born in 1906 in New York City and graduated with a master’s degree from Yale University. 

Hopper joined the US Navy in 1943, where she became involved with programming computers during World War II. She programmed the Harvard Mark 1 computer used during this period. As one of the best computer programmers of her time, Hopper also helped create a link editor so people could work on multiple computers simultaneously.

Grace Hopper is well-known for being one of the first women in the United States to receive this position and for what she achieved in her career.

She developed FORTRAN and COBOL, important programming languages.

She received the National Medal of Technology and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and had a military vessel, the USS Hopper, named after her. 

What’s the best Grace Hopper quote?

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for?”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

Final Thoughts

At first, we were a little hesitant to write this article. However, after some research, we decided to look at the facts. We discovered that there had been famous female computer scientists throughout history who did incredible things for our planet. 

They gave birth to concepts and devices that have changed humanity for the better—and we need more people like them. Where did you think we would be without the efforts of these female computer scientists?

What did you think of this list? Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments below.


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Joannah W.
Joannah has been a science publisher with close to 20 years of experience. She wants to help students and researchers stay ahead of the trends and developments in the science community by making science more accessible to everyone.

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