Lois Haibt

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Lois Haibt
Born Lois Mitchell
Nationality American
Alma mater Vassar College
Employer IBM, Yorktown Heights IBM Research Laboratory
Known for Member of ten-person team at IBM that developed FORTRAN
Spouse(s) Luther Haibt
Children Carolyn

Lois Haibt is an American computer scientist who is perhaps most famous for being a member of the ten-person team at IBM that developed FORTRAN, the first successful high level programming language.

Biography and career[edit]

She joined the FORTRAN team at IBM, which was led by John Backus, upon graduation from Vassar College. She was the only female member of the team.[1]

They took anyone who seemed to have an aptitude for problem-solving skills-- bridge players, chess players, even women.

— Lois Haibt [2]

Lois Haibt was lured to IBM after graduating from Vassar, where she did well in mathematics and science, by a starting salary of $5,100, nearly twice the offer from Bell Laboratories. "They told me it was a job programming computers," she said. "I only had a vague idea what that was. But I figured it must be something interesting and challenging, if they were going to pay me all that money."[3]

"It was the kind of atmosphere where if you couldn’t see what was wrong with your program, you would just turn to the next person," she recalled. "No one was worried about seeming stupid or possessive of his or her code. We were all just learning together."[4]

Lois Haibt was tasked with writing the computer module that analyzed the flow control from the part of the compiler that collected information about the program to be compiled and calculated the frequency with which the basic blocks of the program would be executed, using Monte Carlo methods.

She was married to Luther Haibt (May 4, 1929 – December 3, 2000)[5] and lived in Katonah, New York, where they had a daughter, Carolyn. She worked for years as a systems analyst and researcher for Yorktown Heights IBM Research Laboratory,[6] where her work included working on visualization of program structure using a program she developed to draw multilevel flow charts. In later years, she worked in the analysis of Petri nets and generating programs from them.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Steve Lohr. "John W. Backus, 82, Fortran Developer, Dies". New York Times. March 20, 2007.
  2. ^ "Lois Haibt: The core of Fortran". Innovators, Vassar College. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 
  3. ^ Lohr, Steve (13 June 2001). "SOFTWARE; When Few Knew the Code, They Changed the Language". The New York Times. p. 20. 
  4. ^ Lohr, Steve. "John Backus and FORTRAN: Part Three: FORTRAN The Early "Turning Point"". About.com. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "Carolyn Haibt to Wed Edward Norton in Fall". The New York Times. p. 67. 

External links[edit]