1959: Grace Hopper

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Grace Hopper graduated from Yale in 1934 with a mathematics Ph.D., and her service in the U.S. Navy Reserve during World War II put her on the front lines of computer science in the 1940s. By 1959, she had helped to create and popularize COBOL, one of the first standardized computer languages. As a pioneer in programming, Hopper shaped the world of software as we know it today—and paved the way for women everywhere to thrive in math, computer science and service to their countries. In 2016, President Obama posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying, “If Wright is flight and Edison is light, then Hopper is code.” —Susan Fowler

Fowler is the author of Whistleblower

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This article is part of 100 Women of the Year, TIME’s list of the most influential women of the past century. Read more about the project, explore the 100 covers and sign up for our Inside TIME newsletter for more.