Famous Computer Scientists: Inspiring Careers & Contributions

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From the invention of calculating machines, to fully-functioning computers, to the internet and the iPhone, technology has seriously impacted the way we behave and communicate. After all, as Mark Zuckerberg said, “People don’t care about what you say, they care about what you build.” For those entering the technology sector, it is important to take note of the famous computer scientists who paved the way, as well as their inspiring careers and contributions.



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Societies around the world rely on technology in almost every aspect of life, including both professional and personal needs. Computer science has helped to accelerate healthcare practices, cure diseases, facilitate advanced education, enable immediate communication, and it allows businesses to profitably reach those who benefit from the technology.


As an aspiring computer scientist, it is important to learn about those who have paved the way before you. The computer scientists in the list below all specialize in various fields like computer technology, hardware, software development, programming, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. These famous scientists have contributed influential research and designs to the industry, shaping the way we understand and use technology today.



1. Elon Musk


Although he was born and raised in South Africa, Elon Musk spent some time living in Canada and eventually the US before founding companies like Tesla and SpaceX. After studying business and economics at the University of Pennsylvania, he began a PhD program in physics but soon dropped out and launched his first company, Zip2. Musk also founded, an online financial services company, which is now better known as PayPal.



2. Mark Zuckerburg


One of the most well-known computer scientists around the world, Mark Zuckerburg is credited with his influence over the way we use social media today. While studying at Harvard, his creation of Facemash, later known as Facebook, was instantly controversial, based on the notion of students using Harvard servers to rate each other based on appearance. Today, with 2.27 billion monthly active users, Facebook exceeds over $500 billion in market value, according to CNN.



3. Barbara Liskov


Throughout her career, Barbara Liskov focused on programming methodology, developing and implementing CLU and Argus languages, with a specialty in programming systems and distributed computing. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the head of the Programming Methodology Group at MIT, where she currently teaches as an Institute Professor. She was one of the first women in the United States to earn a Ph.D. from a computer science department. She has said that her advice to young women starting out in the computer science field is “to find out what is interesting to you and what you are good at. And be prepared to change your goals if that turns out to be the right thing for you.”



4. Larry Page


While studying in California, Larry Page co-founded Google as a research project and, with the help of Sergey Brin, created a search engine that changed the way we consume information. He served as Google’s first CEO until 2001, after which he served as the president of products for about ten years before returning to his CEO title. Page earned his BA degree from the University of Michigan and his M.S. from Stanford University in computer engineering.



5. Guido Van Rossum


In the early 90s, Van Rossum developed Python, one of the most popular coding languages used by programmers around the world and by companies like Spotify and Dropbox. Python powers a huge variety of software programs used today, following his original goal of creating an open-source, intuitive language as powerful as a computer but still suitable for everyday tasks.



6. Bill Gates


Bill Gates started his career writing software as a child, creating his first program at age 13. By age 23, Gates and his colleagues created the Microsoft empire and, although he has stepped down from his role as CEO, his foundation and contribution continue to influence the computer science industry. He not only tours the country inspiring university students, but he uses aggressive business tactics and philanthropic efforts to inspire technological change.



7. Tim Berners-Lee


Though there are many notable achievements by each computer scientist in this list, Tim Berners-Lee is widely credited with inventing the internet we know and use today. The World Wide Web (WWW) gives users access to unlimited communication and documentation, giving researchers the ability to share results, techniques and practices without relying solely on email. In 1994, Berners-Lee established the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT’s computer science laboratory, which oversees the development of the Web and standard practices. Five years later he has earned a Founders chair and since has earned numerous engineering honors.



8. Hedy Lamarr


One of the most well-known actresses from the 1940s, Lamarr began her career in filmmaking. She starred in Oscar-nominated films like “Algiers” and “Sampson and Delilah”, but her impact on the computer science industry centers around her frequency-hopping invention. In 1941 she filed a patent which led to the development of Bluetooth, Wifi, and GPS and was later donated to the U.S. military to help fight the Nazis.


At the start of her career, Hedy Lamarr was regarded as one of the most beautiful people in the world, although she has stated herself that “the brains of people are more interesting than the looks.” Today, she is widely respected for her inventions and advances in communication technology, recognized in 1997 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.



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Create Your Own Path!

While we can certainly learn from those before us, it is also important to remember that in your own career it is your skills and your passion that will open the next door, and make your mark as a famous computer scientist.



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If you are are looking to boost your career, or you are just starting out in the computer science industry, you might be interested in an online degree. There are many online universities out there such as the University of the People where In two years, you can typically earn an Associate Degree in Computer Science, and in four years, you can earn a Bachelor’s Degree. Talk to a career counselor about how a degree in computer science can shape or boost your career!


For those just starting out, try learning a few computer languages to have under your belt before you start interviewing. Computer science degrees can help you become an expert in your area of specialization. While it can be tempting to try and master every subject, focus on the areas that really interest you and let your passion show. Ask questions about the work environment and identify possible career paths. Do you want to spend your time coding, or would you rather work directly with clients and end users? Are you more comfortable with lengthy deadlines or short-term assignments?


Regardless of where you are in your career path, be honest about your skills and strengths. Let those who have contributed to the field inspire you, and remember to stay true to your own interests. The prospect of job opportunities for computer scientists has been optimistic, with an 11% increase projected between 2011 and 2024. So, don’t worry too much about figuring out exactly your next move. Honesty and hard work will bring you that much closer to your goals, whatever they may be!