Tech Lady Tuesday!

Here’s a real tech lady!

This month I’ve decided to focus on some real women in tech, especially women from history that have made a significant contribution to the world of science and technology.

Beatrice Helen Worsley, Canada’s Female Computer Pioneer, a witness to several great moments in computing history, one of the first women to earn a doctorate in Computer Science in 1951.

From Wikipedia:


Beatrice Helen Worsley was born in Mexico, but graduated from Bishop Strachan School in Toronto in 1939, receiving the Governor General’s Award for the highest overall grade.[4][5][3] In 1944 she graduated from the University of Toronto with first class honours in Mathematics and Physics. [6][3] During World War II she worked with the Royal Canadian Navy on the design of torpedoes which were equipped with rudimentary computers. In 1947 she received an S.M. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; her thesis was “A Mathematical Survey of Computing Devices with an Appendix on Error Analysis of Differential Analyzers.”[3]


In September 1947 Worsley and J. Perham Stanley were hired by the University of Toronto Computation Centre as junior assistants. During this time Worsley built a differential analyzer with Meccano (a metal construction system designed for building models), based on an article by Douglas Hartree and Arthur Porter from 1935. Her analyzer was only slightly modified from the original design, but offered small improvements to the electrical power distribution system, the design of the torque amplifiers, and the output pen support.[3] In 1949 Worsley and Stanley went to Cambridge University to work with Maurice Wilkes, who was in the process of completing the EDSAC computer. Worsley wrote the first program to successfully run on EDSAC, which was a program that generated a table of squares. When the new computer Ferut was installed, Worsley was one of the people who wrote Transcode, a programming system which allowed programmers to write programs in a simplified language that was then compiled into Ferut’s more obscure machine language.[3] In 1952 Worsley received a Ph.D. from Cambridge, making her possibly the first woman to earn a doctorate in the field of computers.[3] Her dissertation, “Serial Programming for Real and Idealized Digital Calculating Machines”, was the first PhD dissertation involving modern computers.[4]

In 1965 Worsley became a founding member of the Queen’s Computing Centre at Queen’s University, where she developed some of the early courses given by the Centre.[3] On May 8, 1972 Worsley died of a heart attack; in 1971 she had donated a large number of her papers to the Smithsonian Institution.

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