The world's first computer programmer, Kay was born in a tiny village, Creeslough - a Gaeltacht region in County Donegal in the civil parish of Clondahorky.
Kay was born as the War of Independence broke out and her father (James McNulty) was arrested for IRA membership on the night she was born, he spent two years in prison. On his release the family left for Pennsylvania eventually settling in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.
Kay excelled at school, particularly in Mathematics and earned a scholarship to attend Chestnut Hill College. Graduating in 1942 she was one of only three women in a class of 100!
After graduation her first job was for the US government, she was hired as a 'computer' calculating missile trajectories during the second world war. She was selected with five other women to work at Aberdeen military base in Maryland, developing the process for a machine called the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). This machine was the world's first electronic general-purpose computer and a huge step forward in technology. Pictured below is Kay handing a print out of ENIAC results to it's inventors Pres Eckert (left) and John Mauchly (right) in a newsreel from 1946.
Kay married Joh Mauchly in February 1948 and subsequently left paid employment, it was unusual in that Mauchly was neither Irish or Catholic and was a widow with 2 children. It is said on their honeymoon he presented her with a cookbook saying 'You are our new cook'. Kay went on to have 5 children of her own while she continued to programme Mauchly new computers in the background. Following Mauchly death in 1980, she continued on the legacy of their software businesses by authoring articles, giving talks and lectures.
In 1997, Kay was inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of fame for her work on the ENIAC, and in Ireland, the computing building at Dublin City University and a scholarship at Letterkenny IT is named after her. Kay passed away in 2006 but her legacy continues.
|Date of Birth||12th Feb 1921|
|Date of Death||20th Apr 2006|
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)||James McNulty (Séamus Mac an Ultaigh; 1890–1977) James returned to Ireland to live in Creeslough following the death of his wife in 1966. He died on Feb 05th 1977 aged 87. At his request, his body was returned to Philadelphia to be buried with his wife.|
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)||Anne McNulty (Neils)|
|Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname)||John Mauchly, Feb 1948|
|Number of Children||5|
|Names of Children||Sally Mauchly born 1949 Kathy Mauchly born 1951 Bill Mauchly born 1953 Gini Mauchly born 1954 Eva Mauchly born 1958|