Margaret K. Butler

Margaret Kampschaefer Butler (March 27, 1924 – March 8, 2013) was a longtime mathematician who participated in creating and updating computer software. During the early 1950s, Butler contributed to the development of early computers. Butler was the first female fellow at the American Nuclear Society and director of the National Energy Software Center at Argonne. Butler held leadership positions within multiple scientific organizations and women's groups.[1] She was the creator and director of the National Energy Software Center. Here, Butler operated an exchange for the editing of computer programs in regards to nuclear power and developed early principles for computer technology.[2]

Margaret Kampschaefer Butler
Born(1924-03-27)March 27, 1924
DiedMarch 8, 2013(2013-03-08) (aged 88)
NationalityUnited States

Early life and education

Butler was born on March 27, 1924 in Evansville, Indiana.[3]


Butler began her career in 1944 working as a statistician at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.[4] While she worked there, she also taught math at the United States Department of Agriculture Graduate School and took graduate courses related to sampling theory.[4] About a year later, she joined the United States Army Air Forces and worked as a civilian in Germany.[4] She returned to the United States after two years and began working in the Naval Reactors Division of Argonne National Laboratory as a junior mathematician.[4] While working at Argonne, Butler made calculations for physicists creating a prototype for a submarine reactor and attended atomic physics and reactor design classes.[5] In 1949, she worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Minnesota but returned to Argonne National Laboratory in 1951.[5] Following her return to Argonne, Butler became an assistant mathematician in the Reactor Engineering Division and worked on AVIDAC, an early computer.[4] In the 1950s Butler wrote software, reactor applications, mathematical subroutines, and utilities for three other Argonne computers, the ORACLE, GEORGE, and UNIVAC.[5] From the late 1950s to early 1960s she led Argonne's Applied Mathematics Division's Application Programming.[5] While working in this department, Butler developed teams to fix program problems in reactors, biology, chemistry, physics, management, and high energy physics applications.[5] In 1960, Butler worked with others to establish the Argonne Code Center, which later became the National Energy Software Center (NESC).[5] Butler would later become director of the NESC from 19721991.[5] In 1980, Butler was promoted to Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne. Butler officially retired in 1991, but continued to work at Argonne from 1993 to 2006 as a "special term appointee".[5]


During her time in Argonne, Butler was very supportive of her female coworkers.[4] Women working at Argonne described her as a role model with a welcoming presence.[5] According to Margaret's son Jay, she thought women were "given all the responsibilities and none of the authorities" and had to work "harder and smarter" yet were still not treated as individuals.[4][6] When Butler rose in the ranks at Argonne, she made sure to hire women and recommend them for promotions.[4] Margaret worked with other women to organize an Association for Women in Science in Chicago.[5] While in AWIS, Margaret held executive board positions and led two conferences for high school students, teachers, and administration.[4][5]


  1. "Computer pioneer Margaret Butler dies". United Press International. March 19, 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  2. "Mothers and Daughters of Invention." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 December 2014.
  3. "Computer pioneer Margaret Butler dies". UPI. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
  4. Giangrasse Kates, Joan. "Margaret K. Butler: 1924-2013". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  5. "In memoriam: The remarkable career of Margaret Butler". Argonne National Library. Argonne National Laboratory. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  6. Stump, Holly. "Margaret Butler: One Woman's Life in Science". SemiWiki. Retrieved 18 December 2014.

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