Enter the maze

A Gendered Timeline of Computer Science Stars

by Paul Curzon, Queen Mary University of London

Blue hourglass: copyright www.istock.com 157374715

Women have played a gigantic role in the history of computing. Their ideas form the backbone to modern technology.


Data representation

Ada Lovelace points out that once other things, like music, are represented by numbers computers can be much more than just calculators. [More]


Data Visualisation

Florence Nightingale is the first person to combine lots of data with good ways of presenting all those numbers so the patterns can be seen and be persuasive. She successfully uses it to convince politicians to take action over deaths in hospital due to poor cleanliness.


Frequency Hopping

Hedy Lamarr co-invents frequency hopping: communicating by constantly jumping from one frequency to another. This idea underlies much of today's mobile technology. [More]


High Level Languages and Compilers

Grace Hopper suggests programming should be done using english words rather than obscure codes or numbers, then writes the first compiler to make it a reality. [More]


Electronic Music

Daphne Oram, a pioneer of electronic music, co-founds the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, responsible for the soundscapes behind hundreds of tv and radio programmes. She suggests the idea of spatial sound where sounds are in specific places.


Optimizing Compilers

Fran Allen sets out a clear foundation for the way compilers can improve programs written in high level languages, so that the resulting code is faster but does the same thing as the original. [More]


Search Engines

Karen Spärck Jones invents an algorithm to decide which documents are most relevant. Variations form the core of most search engines. [More]


Embedded computers

Sophie Wilson designs the instruction set for the first ARM RISC chip creating a chip that is both faster and uses less energy than traditional designs: just what you need for mobile gadgets. This chip family go on to power 95% of all smartphones. [More]


Programming Languages

Barbara Liskov develops a series of programming languages. Argus is the first language to support writing distributed programs. Her earlier CLU language includes important ideas that ultimately lead to the development of object-oriented programming. [More]


Cyber security

Shafi Goldwasser co-invents, zero knowledge proofs: a way to show that a claim being made is true without giving away any more information. This is important in cryptography to ensure people are honest without giving up privacy.


Image compression

Ingrid Daubechies comes up with a practical way to use 'wavelets', mathematical tools that when drawn are wave-like. This opens up new powerful ways to store images in far less memory, make images sharper, and much, much more. [More]


Detecting collisions

Ming Lin co-invents algorithms for tracking moving objects and detecting collisions based on the idea of bounding them with boxes. They are used widely in games and computer-aided design software.


Computational Thinking

Jeannette Wing promotes the idea of computational thinking as the key problem solving skill set of computer scientists. It is now taught in schools across the world.

It is of course important to remember that men occasionally helped too! The best computer science and innovation arise when the best people of whatever gender, culture, sexuality, ethnicity and background work together.