Stephanie Shirley

Stephanie Shirley

Born: 1933

Dame Stephanie Shirley was born in Germany in 1933. She arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied child refugee escaping Nazi Germany. The girl’s high school she attended did not teach mathematics. After taking an assessment, she was granted permission to take lessons at the local boys school.

When she was 18, Dame Stephanie began work at the Post Office’s Dollis Hill research station. It was here that she became more and more interested in computers. She worked on the first transatlantic telephone cable, the first electronic telephone exchange and the premium bond random number machine, ERNIE, a project headed by Tommy Flowers and in which she was the only woman.

Dame Stephanie founded her own software company, Freelance Programmers, in 1962 when her career stalled while at the company that went on to become ICL. To help promote her company she began to sign her name “Steve” rather than Stephanie. Her company was unique and employed an almost exclusively female workforce until the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal for her to do so. One of the many projects her team worked on was developing the programming for the black box flight recorders in Concorde jets.

In 1993 Shirley retired to concentrate on philanthropic works. She is the Founder and President of Autistica which funds and campaigns for autism research.

Stephanie Shirley 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.

Books Written by Stephanie Shirley :




Photograph of Stephanie Shirley Click for a larger version

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