Jean E Sammet: The Inventor of FORMAC Programming Language

Jean E. Sammet, a widely popular and influential American computer scientist, is best known for developing the very first extensively used computer language – FORMAC programming language – for symbolic manipulation of mathematical formulas in 1962. She was also the first female president of the Association of Computing Machinery from 1974 to 1976.

Jean E. Sammet was born on 23 March 1928, in New York City to lawyer parents Harry and Ruth Sammet. From the very early childhood, she showed her interests for mathematics and spent hours reading and solving mathematical calculations. She completed Bachelor or Arts in Math in 1948 from Mount Holyoke College and M.A. in Math in 1949 from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1955, she 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 worked as a member of the original COBOL group. In 1961, she joined IBM and developed FORMAC and worked on the implementation of natural language for mathematical programs. From 1968 to 1974 she served as programming technology planning manager for the Federal Systems Division and in 1979 as software technology manager.

Jean E. Sammet has earned several awards and honors for her significant contribution and achievements. In 1978, she was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree by Mount Holyoke; in 1994, she was chosen the Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and in 2001 the Fellow of the Computer History Museum, and in 2013 she was awarded with the NCWIT Pioneer Award and many others.