Betty Jean Jennings Bartik
2008 Computer Pioneer Recipient
“For pioneering work as one of the first
programmers, including co-leading the
first teams of ENIAC programmers,
and pioneering work on BINAC and
Betty Jean Jennings Bartik holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Northwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Northwest Missouri State University), an M.S. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and an honorary Doctor of Science from Northwest. Northwest also established the Jean Jennings Bartik Computing Museum to house a history of computing, its emphasis is on PCs, Digital’s PDP-11, ENIAC, BINAC and Univac. Northwest became the first electronic campus in 1987 and is now leading the way with electronic textbooks.
Along with the other ENIAC Programmers, Ruth Lichterman (Teitelbaum), Frances “Betty” Snyder (Holberton), Marlyn Westcoff (Meltzer), Kathleen McNulty (Mauchly) (Antonelli) and Frances Bilas (Spence), Jean was inducted into the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame in 2002. She became a Fellow of The Computer History Museum in 2008. She also received the Korenman Award by the Multinational Development of Women in Technology (MDWIT) this year.
Sixty-four years ago, the 20-year-old Betty Jean Jennings (Bartik) answered the Army’s call for women math majors to calculate ballistics trajectories by hand for the Army’s Ballistics Research Lab (now Army Research Labs). Their job title was “Computer”. A few months later, she volunteered to run the first electronic computer, the Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). It was a tremendous success because it could calculate trajectories faster than a speeding bullet. She led the programming effort to turn the ENIAC into a stored program computer. She went on to program the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC), and do logical design on the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC), the first commercial computer.
Ms. Bartik’s career continued with pioneering work at Remington Rand, Auerbach Publishers and Honeywell.
The Army never introduced or credited the ENIAC women. Discovered in 1985 by Kathy Kleiman, belated recognition came to Ms. Bartik and the ENIAC Programmers along with documentation of their historic work. More information about Ms. Bartik, and the ENIAC Programmers documentary, together with stunning 1946 pictures, can be found at the ENIAC Programmers Project website, www.eniacprogrammers.org.