Jean Sammet

Jean Sammet


Jean E. Sammet is a retired computer scientist and programmer who is best-known for her work on FORMAC, the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions.

Sammet supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. (1955-1958). She worked at Sylvania Electric Products (1958-1961) in various positions and while there she served as a key member of the original COBOL committee.

She joined IBM in 1961 to organize and manage the Boston Programming Center. She initiated the concept, and directed the development, of the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler.) 

During the 1970s and 1980s, she worked for IBM’s Federal Systems Division in various positions, emphasizing programming language issues including Ada.

Sammet is the author of “PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES: History and Fundamentals,” which became a standard book on its topic, and was called an “instant computer classic” when published in 1969.

She was very active in ACM and held many positions including President, Vice-President, Editor-in-Chief of Computing Reviews, General and/or Program Chair for the first two SIGPLAN History of Programming Languages Conferences (HOPL) in 1978 and 1993. She organized the AFIPS History of Computing Committee, and helped start the Annals of the History of Computing.

She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (1977), and among other awards received the ACM Distinguished Service Award (1985), Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing (1989). She is a Fellow of ACM (1994) and the Computer History Museum (2001).

Sammet has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in Mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke in 1978.