Mary Kenneth Keller

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Sister Mary Kenneth Keller (1914?–January 10, 1985) was a nun and computer science pioneer. In June 1965 she, along with Irving Tang, became the first in America to earn a PhD in Computer Science. She earned her degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[1][2][3] Her thesis was titled "Inductive Inference on Computer Generated Patterns."[3]

She took her vows with the Sisters of Charity in 1940. Later she earned a B.S. in Mathematics and a M.S. in Mathematics and Physics from DePaul University. She also worked in the computer science center at Dartmouth College, a men-only institution at the time, where she participated in the development of the BASIC programming language.[4]

Keller believed in the potential for computers to increase access to information and promote education.[5] In 1965, after earning her PhD, Keller founded the computer science department at Clarke College in Iowa, which she directed for twenty years.[6] Clarke College now has the Keller Computer Center and Information Services, which is named after her and which provides computing and telecommunication support to Clarke College students, faculty members, and staff.[7] The college has also established the Mary Kenneth Keller Computer Science Scholarship in her honor.[8]

Keller wrote four books about computer science.[9]


  1. ^ London, Ralph L. (15 January 2013). "Who Earned First Computer Science Ph.D.?". Communications of the ACM (blog). Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Steel, Martha Vickers (11 December 2011), Women in computing: experiences and contributions within the emerging computing industry (CSIS 550 History of Computing – Research Paper), archived from the original on 23 November 2011, retrieved 1 August 2014 
  3. ^ a b "UW-Madison Computer Science Ph.D.s Awarded, May 1965 - August 1970". University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved 2014-11-09. , PhDs granted at UW-Madison Computer Sciences Department.
  4. ^ Gürer, Denise (June 2002). "Pioneering Women in Computer Science". Communications of the ACM 34 (2). 
  5. ^ "Sister Mary Kenneth Keller". The Ada Project: Pioneering Women in Computing Technology. Retrieved 2014-11-09. 
  6. ^ About - National Women's History Museum - NWHM
  7. ^ Computer Center : Clarke University
  8. ^ Mary Kenneth Keller Computer Science Scholarship - Clarke University Scholarships
  9. ^ KELLER, Mary Kenneth - Encyclopedia Dubuque