From Grace Hopper to Ada Lovelace: women who revolutionized computer science

Though women are under-represented in many computer science fields, these women have made a sizable impact on the development of the technology we know today. Con Tanisiuk/Newscom/File

Today’s Google Doodle honors computer science whiz Grace Hopper, who led the team that invented Common Business-Oriented Language, or COBOL, the first programming language that used words instead of numbers.

Though Ms. Hopper was a trailblazer in the computer science world, there have not been many women who have followed in her path. In 2010, only 18.4 percent of computer science BA degrees were awarded to women, according to a study by the National Science Foundation.

However, today organizations like Girls Who Code and GoldieBlox are making a marked effort to bring more women into science, engineering, and technology. And looking back in history, women have had a sizable impact on the field of computer science, despite being outnumbered by men. Check out this list of influential women in computer science.

1. Grace Hopper


In 1982, David Letterman asked Dr. Hopper how she knew so much about computers. She replied, “I didn’t. It was the first one.” Throughout her career, Hopper worked on the Mark I computer at United States Naval Reserve’s Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, one of the earliest working computers, as well its later generations Mark II and III. She also led the team that invented COBOL, a language which is still used today. She is also known to have coined the term “debug” to rid a computer of glitches after lifting an actual moth from the inner workings of a Mark II computer. Hopper earned her PhD in mathematics from Yale on top of a Bachelors degree from Vassar, and enlisted in the Navy at age 37. She received the National Medal of Technology, the Data Processing Management Association’s “computer sciences man of the year” award, and the Defense Distinguished Service medal.

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