This is Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM. In 1965, she became the first woman in the United States to be awarded a doctorate in Computer Science. In fact, she was for all intents and purposes the very first person, man or woman, to earn a doctorate in Computer Science in the US. The man who is technically first was awarded his degree on the same day, so the fact that she isn’t first is simply a quirk of university commencement scheduling. Let’s call it a tie for first.
For good measure, she earned masters degrees in math and physics. And a Ph.D. in philosophy.
She went on to found the department of Computer Science at Clarke College.
She also helped implement the BASIC programming language, which kinda changed the world.
Some people might find it surprising that a Catholic religious would be involved in STEM, but of course it’s the least surprising thing in the world. Christians have always been at the forefront of STEM. Heck, the computer programming language Pascal is named after Blaise Pascal, famous Catholic theologian and mathematician.
Why? Because the true Christian affirms that there is no contradiction between faith and reason. More importantly, the true Christian believes that truth builds upon truth. That is to say, deeply understanding one truth allows deeper insight into, or discovery of, other truths, even in seemingly unrelated fields. Again, we shouldn’t be surprised by this, but fully expect this since there is but one Author of truth. Truth itself. This is why St. Paul says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
“Whatever is true…think about such things.” Because truth builds on truth, and leads to Truth.
There is another famous woman computer programmer who you may have heard of, Ada Lovelace. She is considered the very first computer programmer. She also has a programming language named after her: Ada. Lovelace absolutely believed in the idea of truth being one. She writes “In that deeply-felt truth lies the secret of my intense devotion to the reading of God’s natural works. It is reading Him. His will – His intelligence; and this again is learning to obey and to follow (to the best of our power) that will! For he who reads, who interprets the Divinity with a true and simple heart, then obeys and submits in acts and feelings as by an impulse and instinct. He can’t help doing so. At least, it appears so to me.” And again, “The intellectual, the moral, the religious seem to me all naturally bound up and interlinked together in one great and harmonious whole… That God is one, and that all the works and the feelings He has called into existence are ONE…There is too much tendency to making separate and independent bundles of both the physical and the moral facts of the universe. Whereas, all and everything is naturally related and interconnected.”
Friends, let’s seek Truth wherever we may find Him. Embrace the hard truths as well as the easy truths. In fact, especially embrace the hard truths; those are almost certainly not what we desire most, but are what we need most.