Beatrice Worsley

Beatrice Worsley

Born Querétaro, Mexico in 1921

Died 1972

Beatrice completed her undergraduate degree in Mathematics at the University of Toronto in 1944, having won many awards along the way and later joined the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (known as the ‘Wrens’), spending many weeks at sea on the minesweeper HMCS Quinte

On leaving the Wrens, Beatrice began her computing career at MIT where she documented all the computer systems in existence at the time for her thesis, an account that remains one of the most detailed on those earliest computers.

Later, while working at the University of Toronto’s new Computation Centre she and a colleague journeyed to Cambridge to study the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC). She helped write the first program to run on EDSAC (for calculating square numbers) and subsequently produced one of the earliest papers on the topic, called The EDSAC Demonstration. She decided to stay on and complete her PhD in Mathematical Physics at Newnham College, supervised by Douglas Hartree. Beatrice received her doctorate in 1952 with a thesis that is considered to be the first one about modern computers; she is therefore arguably the first woman in the world to earn a PhD in computer science.

After completing her studies, she re-joined the team at the Computation Centre at the University of Toronto and with a colleague, J.N. Patterson “Patt” Hume, wrote the first compiler, Transcode, for the University’s first electronic computer, a Ferranti Mark I that she christened 'FERUT'. Beatrice was a passionate champion of women in computer science research and in 2014 was posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science by the Canadian Association of Computer Science.

Beatrice Worlsey was one of the women profiled in our Women in Computing Festival 2017 of entitled Where Did All the Women Go?. Click here for the Women in Computing timeline created for that event.




Photograph of Beatrice Worsley Click for a larger version

Help support the museum by buying from the museum shop

View all items

Founding Sponsors
redgate Google ARM Real VNC Microsoft Research
Heritage Lottery Funded
Heritage Lottery Fund
Accredited Museum