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Jean Sammet: The Groundbreaking Pioneer of Programming Languages



Jean Sammet, born on March 23, 1928, was a computer scientist and programmer who made significant contributions to the development of programming languages and computer science education. Her work had a profound impact on the world of computing, and her legacy continues to influence the field today.

Sammet's interest in mathematics and programming began at a young age. She earned a degree in mathematics from Mount Holyoke College in 1948 and went on to study computer science at the University of Illinois. She received her PhD in mathematics from the university in 1968.


Sammet's early work focused on the development of programming languages. She was one of the designers of the COBOL language, which was widely used in business and government applications in the 1960s and 1970s. She also worked on the development of the FORMAC language, which was used for symbolic manipulation and algebraic computation.


Sammet was a pioneer in the field of computer science education. She developed a curriculum for teaching computer programming to beginners, and she was instrumental in establishing the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. Her efforts helped to promote computer science education and increase the number of women in the field.


Sammet was also an advocate for the preservation of computing history. She served as the president of the Charles Babbage Institute, a research center dedicated to the history of computing, and she was a co-founder of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.


Sammet's contributions to the field of computer science were recognized with numerous awards and honors. She was elected as a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1974 and received the organization's Distinguished Service Award in 1985. In 2001, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame.


Jean Sammet passed away on May 20, 2017, but her legacy lives on in the world of computing. Her work laid the foundation for the development of programming languages and computer science education, and her advocacy for the preservation of computing history has ensured that future generations will be able to appreciate the important role that computing has played in shaping our world.

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