Tech Women: Meet Jean Jennings Bartik, ENIAC Programmer
Jean Jennings Bartik was one of the six women who programmed the ENIAC computer. In her career spanning over decades, she has worked as a a writer, manager, engineer and programmer. Let’s know more about this wonder woman.
Birth and Education
Jean was born in Gentry County, Missouri, in 1924. She had six siblings. Her grandmother would buy a newspaper for her to read every day. Jean idolized her for the rest of her life. She began her education at a one-room school, and gained local attention for her softball skills. She graduated from Stanberry High School in 1941, aged 16.
Jean attended Northwest Missouri State Teachers College and majored in mathematics with a minor in English. She graduated in 1945. In 1967, she earned a master’s degree in English at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967 and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Northwest Missouri State University in 2002.
Her advice for women who want to get into technology:
“I just say do what you love. I loved every minute of what I did. If you don’t love what you do, what do you have?”
- Jean was roped in to work on the new machine, called ENIAC. She and the team taught themselves ENIAC’s operation and became its first programmers.
- In 1947, she worked on converting ENIAC into a stored-program computer. She also contributed significantly to the early BINAC and UNIVAC 1 computers.
- In 1967, Jean joined the Auerbach Corporation where she would write and edit technical reports on minicomputers.
- She remained with Auerbach for eight years and moved among positions with a variety of other companies for the rest of her career as a manager, writer, and engineer.
After spending her last years as a real estate agent, Jean died from congestive heart failure in a nursing home in Poughkeepsie, New York, on March 23, 2011. She was a strong advocate for induction of women in science and technology.