Programming Languages That Were Created by Women

Software development has always been known to be a male-dominated world. But according to the world’s tech trends, this situation is changing every year, especially in the Ukrainian IT industry. Taking in mind these facts, some women have designed and developed programming languages that have had a significant impact on software development. Read the stories behind the programming languages that were created by women.

Numerous women have made very important contributions to programming through the decades. Pioneering women have designed and developed programming languages that are used to give computers instructions from the days of mainframes and machine code to the current days of higher level languages.

ARC assembly

Creator: Kathleen Booth
Year: 1950
Place: Birkbeck College, UK


Back in 1950s, programs had to written directly in machine code, a series of 0s and 1s. One of the first assemble languages was created by Kathleen Booth in 1950. The language was written for the ARC (Automatic Relay Calculator) computer. The ARC assembly language was created to make programming easier by letting programmers write machine instructions in mnemonic form. An assembler would then translate these instructions into machine code.


Creator: Kateryna Yushchenko
Year: 1955
Place: Kiev Institute of Mathematics, USSR


The first programmable computer in Europe (MESM) was created in the Soviet Union in 1950. Kateryna Yushchenko was one of the scientists who developed it at the Kiev Institute of Mathematics of the Ukrainian SSR Academy of Sciences. She was also the first woman in Ukraine to be awarded a Doctorate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in programming. Yushchenko and her colleagues saw the need for a higher level programming language with indirect addressing for working with MESM. As a result, she developed the Address programming language that became the basis for many well-known higher programming languages that were created later in Western countries. The Address language was widely used in Soviet Union for almost 20 years.


Creator: Grace Hopper (along with other members of the Conference on Data System Languages Records)
Year: 1959


COBOL (the Common Business-Oriented Language) was created by Grace Hopper, an admiral in the US Navy. The US government needed a data processing programming language that could be ran on different computers by non-tech people. Before this, Hopper had created the first compiler, known as A-o and some other high-level programming languages, such as ARITH-MATIC and B-o, also known as FLOW-MATIC. COBOL was based on FLOW-MATIC when it was designed in 1959 and was first released that same year, so Happer is considered to be the creator of COBOL.


Creator: Jean Sammet
Year: 1962


FORTRAN was developed by IBM in 1950s. In the same years Jean Sammet was hired by Sperry Gyroscope where she supervised the first scientific programming group and in 1958 she joined Sylvania as a staff consultant for programming research and was a member of the original COBOL group. In 1961 she joined IBM and developed FORMAC (Formula Manipulation Complier), as an extension of FORTRAN. FORMAC became the first widely used language for doing symbolic mathematical computations.


Creator: Cynthia Solomon (along with Daniel Bobrow, Wally Feurzeig and Seymour Papert)
Year: 1967
Place: Cambridge, MA, US


In the late 1960s, a number of scientists saw the need for a programming language for kids with words and sentences rather than numbers and symbols. One of those scientists was Cynthia Solomon. She helped to develop his new language, named Logo, and guided its teaching to 7th graders in the late 1960s. One of Logo’s most well-known applications was for Turtle robots. Logo has influenced many educational programming languages, such as Smalltalk and Scratch.


Creator: Barbara Liskov
Year: 1974
Place: MIT, MA, US


An important step in the development of object-oriented programming languages was the creation of CLU in the mid-1970s. Its design and development was led by Barbara Liskov at MIT. She is the first woman in the US to be awarded a PhD in computer science. With the help of CLU, Liskov popularized concepts such as abstract data types, iterators, and parallel assignment. CLU was never widely used, but it heavily influenced such well-known programming languages as Java, Python and C++.


Creators: Adele Goldberg (along with Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls, Ted Kaehler, Diana Merry, Scott Wallace, Peter Deutsch, and others at Xerox PARC)
Year: 1980
Place: XEROX, CA, US


Just as COBOL was created to simplify the process of programming for the everyday person, the main idea of Smalltalk was to create a coding language that would allow anyone to create applications. Smalltalk was developed at XEROX’s Palo Alto Research Center under the management of Alan Kay. Adele Goldberg joined Kay’s team in 1973 and played an important role in the development of Smalltalk and its pioneering concepts. In 1979 Goldberg presented Steve Jobs and his programmers a demo of Smalltalk that later influenced the design of Apple’s Macintosh desktop.

BBC Basic

Creator: Sophie Wilson
Year: 1981
Place: BBC, UK


BBC Basic is possibly the only one programming language that was created for a television program. In 1981 BBC wanted to air a program called the Computer Literacy Project to teach people about coding and programming. But they thought that BASIC was just too complicated for ordinary people. They decided to cooperate with Acorn Computers to build a new computer, called BBC Micro, as well as a new BASIC version for the show. Sophie Wilson led the project and developed Acorn’s first computer, the 8-bit Acorn Microcomputer. Wilson wrote a new version of BASIC for the show in under 16KB. The show was huge success among its viewers as were the BBC Micro and Wilson’s BBC BASIC.