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

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.

4. Jean E. Sammet

When computers were still the size of a room, Jean E. Sammet was there, coding and even creating languages that provided a fundamental base for computing today. Ms. Sammet began her career studying math at Mt. Holyoke and later received her master's in mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1949. Throughout her life she innovated in programming languages, heading the first scientific programming group at Sperry Gyroscope Co. and was part of the team that developed COBOL. She began working at IBM in 1961 where she developed FORMAC, the first widely used language and system for manipulating non-numeric algebraic expressions. Sammet continued working at IBM for 27 years, and has been given numerous computing awards including the ACM Distinguished Service Award, Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing, and was named a Computer History Museum Fellow. Most recently, she was bestowed the 2013 Pioneer Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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