In honor of Women’s History Month, Theta is concluding the month by honoring women of the past and present in computer technology. Women have shifted and molded computer science since the nineteenth century and will continue to shape and mold the future of computer technology.
Ada Lovelace Becomes the World’s First Computer Programmer
Ada Lovelace was born in London in 1815. She had a love and gift for mathematics at a very young age. She is known as the world’s first computer programmer, as she drafted plans for how the machine called the Analytical Engine, the machine developed by inventor Charles Babbage, could perform computations. The machine is considered to be the first general computer. Lovelace detailed applications for the Analytical Engine that relate to how computers are used today.
Katherine Johnson Executes Critical Space Calculations
Katherine Johnson was born in West Virginia in 1918. Johnson’s story was depicted in the book and movie Hidden Figures in 2016. Johnson’s contributions helped confirm the accuracy of electronic computers used by NASA in the 1950s. She also performed critical calculations that ensured safe space travel. In 1960, she co-authored a research report that used equations for orbital spaceflight. She also performed trajectory analysis for the first human space flight in 1961 and ran critical equations on a desktop mechanical calculating machine before the 1962 orbital mission of John Glenn. Johnson worked on calculations for Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander, the Space Shuttle, and the Earth Resources Satellite. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
Sheryl Sandberg was born in Washington, DC, in 1969. She is known as an author and technology executive. Sandberg is best known as the author of Lean In, the COO of Facebook, and her previous work at Google. In June 2012, she was elected to Facebook’s board of directors by the existing board members, becoming the first woman to serve on its board. Forbes named Sandberg to the top of their tech list and the fourth most powerful woman overall. Before her work at Facebook, Sandberg was vice president of global online sales and operations at Google and was involved in launching Google’s philanthropic arm.
Vanessa Hurst is a computer programmer and social entrepreneur based in Charlottesville, VA. She is the co-founder, and board chair of Girl Develop It, which offers low-cost and judgment-free tutorials on coding founded in 2010. It has helped teach at least 12,000 women the ins and outs of building software. In 2013 she founded and launched CodeMontage, which connects coders of all levels of skill to social nonprofit organizations.