Did you know that the original computers weren’t made of metal or that the first programmers weren’t men? Did you ever consider the fact that, in both these instances, they were women?

Ada Lovelace is the world’s first computer programmer, and she was the first person to invent programming! Katherine Johnson, who helped launch humans into space, literally worked as a human computer, a professional designation for individuals who perform calculations for astronomy and navigation.1

History books frequently overlook the numerous contributions that women have made to technology. This article will focus on a few of the many unsung women whose vision and contributions to technology have shaped what computers and programming are today. 2,3 

The Women of ENIAC


The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was the very first electronic digital computer ever created, paving the way for the modern technological age in which we now find ourselves. Initially employed as human computers to manually solve thousands of equations, Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Meltzer, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman were later chosen to run the ENIAC due to their superior mathematical abilities. The ENIAC was manually programmed by these women to calculate missile trajectories, and they did all this prior to any programming language having been invented at the time.4

Annie Easley

Annie Easley

Like the Women of ENIAC, Annie Easley started her work at NASA as a human computer. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, human computers were beginning to be replaced by machine computers. This did not stop Annie, who adapted and continued to work with NASA. She became a skilled computer programmer, supporting several NASA systems with programming languages like the Formula Translating System (Fortran). According to NASA, she “developed and implemented code” for studying energy-conversion systems and examining alternate power sources, such as the batteries used in early hybrid cars and the Centaur upper-stage rocket. 5 She is also renowned for her efforts to promote STEM careers for women and people of color. 5

Williamina Fleming

Williamina Fleming

Astronomer Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming cataloged thousands of stars and other astronomical phenomena throughout her career and contributed to the creation of a standard method for star designation. Fleming was the first person to identify the Horsehead Nebula. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, she initially found herself working as a maid for Professor Edward Charles Pickering, who at the time was the Director of the Harvard College Observatory. At the Harvard College Observatory, Pickering was dissatisfied with his male assistants, and rumor has it that he had said his maid could do a better job and consequently hired Williamina Fleming, to serve as a computer, which was the term used at the time for a person who manually analyzed information. Fleming eventually became a leading female astronomer during her time, and led dozens of women in computational work that led to the current state of our understanding of the universe. 6

Elizabeth Feinler

Elizabeth Feinler

Elizabeth Feinler helped pioneer and run the The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), then the Defense Data Network (DDN), and network information centers (NIC). These two ancient networks served as the basis for the modern Internet. Her team created the first network hostname and address (WHOIS) server and the first yellow- and white-page servers on the Internet. She and her team created the top-level domain naming method for .com, .edu, .gov, .org, and .net as part of this project, which is still in use today. Her team also administered the Host Naming Registry for the Internet from 1972 until 1989.7

Karen Spärck Jones

karen spärck jones

Karen Spärck Jones, a pioneer in computer science for her work fusing statistics and linguistics, founded the Basis for Search Engines. She was a vocal supporter of women’s rights and their advancement in the field of computer technology. Jones was exploring the idea of automatic language translation at a time when the majority of scientists were working to make people use code to communicate with computers. She developed formulas that included rules for how computers could perceive associations between words by fusing statistics and linguistics. These ideas still form the foundation of all contemporary search engines.8

If these women inspire you, and you’re interested in learning about other incredible women in the coding field, check them out on BYJU’S FutureSchool Blog.


  1. Katherine Johnson: The Human Computer | The Space Techie. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.thespacetechie.com/katherine-johnson-the-human-computer/ 
  2. 15 Unsung Women in Tech Everyone Should Know. – Global Connections for Women. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://gc4women.org/2018/04/04/15-unsung-women-in-tech/ 
  3. Unsung Women in Tech. There are plenty of women to celebrate… | by Mara Hart | Major League Hacking. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://stories.mlh.io/unsung-women-in-tech-4a80fec35344 
  4. The ENIAC women: The programmers behind the world’s first computer — Odetta. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://odetta.ai/blogs/eniac-programmers-the-unsung-women-in-tech 
  5. Annie Easley, Computer Scientist | NASA. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/annie-easley-computer-scientist 
  6. Williamina FLEMING. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://scientificwomen.net/women/fleming-williamina-37 
  7. Elizabeth Feinler and the History of the Internet | New-York Historical Society. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.nyhistory.org/blogs/elizabeth-feinler-and-the-history-of-the-internet 
  8. Karen Spärck Jones: The Search Engineer Enabler – History of Data Science. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.historyofdatascience.com/karen-sparck-jones-the-search-engineer-enabler/