Lois Haibt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lois Haibt
Born Lois Mitchell
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality American
Alma mater Vassar College
Known for Developer of FORTRAN
Spouse(s) Luther Haibt
Children 1
Scientific career
Fields Computer science
Institutions IBM, Thomas J. Watson Research Center
Bell Laboratories

Lois Mitchell Haibt (born 1934) is an American computer scientist best known for being a member of the ten-person team at IBM that developed FORTRAN, the first successful high-level programming language. She is known as an early pioneer in computer science.

Education and career[edit]

Haibt studied mathematics at Vassar College with an academic scholarship. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1955. While at Vassar, Haibt worked at Bell Laboratories during the summer.[1]

Immediately after graduating from Vassar, Haibt began working at IBM.[2] She started with an annual salary of $5,100, despite her lack of prior programming experience. This sum was almost double the amount that she would have made at Bell Laboratories. Haibt inferred that any job with such a high salary would be difficult, but fascinating.[3] She was part of an academically diverse team of ten young people, such as crystallography and cryptography. Experience with mathematics was their one common connection.[3] Haibt was the only woman on the team.[3]

According to Haibt, the team worked well together: "No one was worried about seeming stupid or possessive of his or her code. We were all just learning together."[2] The FORTRAN team worked nontraditional hours so that they could have unlimited access to the IBM 704 computer.[2] They frequently rented rooms at the nearby Langdon Hotel in order to sleep during the day and work at night.[2]

In 1957, Haibt attended Columbia University.[1]

Haibt is a member of the Mathematical Association of America.[1]

Research contributions[edit]

The IBM team spent almost three years creating the programming language FORTRAN, which reformed the way people communicate instructions to computers.[3]

Haibt was in charge of section four of the FORTRAN project.[4] She analyzed the flow of programs produced by other sections of the compiler.[5] Her estimates of flow in high-traffic areas of the computer were obtained by calculating how often basic blocks of the program would execute. Haibt employed Monte Carlo methods (statistical analysis) for these calculations.[2] Through this process, she also created the first syntactic analyzer of arithmetic expressions.[6] Haibt planned and programmed the entire section.[4] Habit was also part of an eleven person team to develop and release the first reference manual for FORTRAN in 1956. [7]

Personal life[edit]

Lois Haibt was married to Luther Haibt (May 4, 1929 – December 3, 2000), a systems analyst at IBM in Thornwood, NY.[8] The Haibts spent their adult lives in New York state. Haibt's daughter, Carolyn, attended Princeton University for her bachelor's degree and went on to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[8] Haibt's hobbies include interior decorating and reading.[1]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Bemer, Bob. "The FORTRAN Builders". www.bobbemer.com. Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Lohr, Steve (2002). Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts - The Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution. Basic Books. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0465042260. 
  3. ^ a b c d Lohr, Steve (2001-06-13). "Pioneers of the 'Fortran' Programming Language". www.fortran.bcs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  4. ^ a b Backus, John. "The History of Fortran I, II, and III" (PDF). Software Preservation Group. Computer History Museum. Retrieved November 22, 2016. 
  5. ^ Holt, Nathalia (2016). Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us From Missiles to the Moon to Mars. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316338912. 
  6. ^ Lee, John A. N. (1996-06-01). "History in the Computer Science Curriculum". SIGCSE Bull. 28 (2): 15–20. doi:10.1145/228296.228298. ISSN 0097-8418. 
  7. ^ "This Day in History: October 15". Computer History Museum. Computer History Museum. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 
  8. ^ a b "Carolyn Haibt to Wed Edward Norton in Fall". The New York Times. 1989-02-12. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-08. 

External links[edit]