International Women’s Day falls today, on the 8th of March 2021. To celebrate, let’s take a look at famous women in tech. Some of whom should really have a larger place in the history books.
In fact, the names of some of the women involved in the human race’s most notable technological achievements seem to have mysteriously slipped under the radar. Often in favour of their male counterparts.
For example, what do the inventors of WiFi, computer programming, and one of the key technologies behind the Internet have in common?
Not to put too fine a point on it, it ain’t no Y chromosome.
Famous women in tech
1) Ada Lovelace – the first-ever computer programmer
Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 and died only 37 years later. But in that time, she developed several theories on which contemporary and later inventors would essentially invent computing.
Ada’s mother, Anna Isabella-Byron (sidenote: her father was the infamous poet, Lord Byron), noticed her natural mathematics skills and insisted that the young Ada be taught science and maths – unusual for a young woman of the time.
Ada Lovelace would later use her skills in her work with Charles Babbage. Babbage is known as the person who invented – but never actually created – the so-called Analytical Engine, often thought of as the theoretical forerunner of the modern computer.
Ada’s part in the project included ideas relating to how the Engine would be able to turn calculation into computation. Alan Turing heavily referenced Lovelace’s work when he invented the first actual computer in the 1940s.
2) Hedy Lamarr – invented the basis of WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth
In a career which included both technological invention and being a star of the silver screen, actress and inventor Hedy Lamar’s most famous creation was a nameless frequency hopping system.
Originally patented as her”secret communication system”, it was designed as a defence against radio-guided torpedoes in World War II. Today, it is the basis of WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth technology.
3) Mary Wilkes – invented the software for the first home computer
Without Mary Wilkes, the modern computer might well have been very different indeed. Wilkes was a logic designer and computer programmer who developed software for the LINC, one of the first personal computer systems.
When she used the LINC in her home in 1965, she also became the first-ever user of a home computer.
4) Annie Easley – a female, black NASA rocket scientist… in the 1950s
Annie Easley is perhaps one of the most remarkable women of the 20th century. Born in 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama, she attended Xavier University and studied pharmacology.
After finding no pharmaceutical college following a move to Cleveland, she applied for a job in the NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, which would soon become part of NASA.
When she joined as a computer scientist in 1955, she was one of only four African-Americans out of 2500 employees.
A genuine trailblazer in terms of gender and race equality, a significant part of a huge number of NASA programs, committed to outreach activities and the developer of the code which is the basis for hybrid car batteries, Annie Easley is rightly one of the most famous women in tech.
5) Radia Perlman – without her, probably no internet
Some people call Radia Perlman the “Mother of the Internet”. That’s because she invented STP (Spanning Tree Protocol) and the Spanning Tree algorithm. Both of which are absolutely vital to how the modern internet works.
Born in New Jersey in 1951, Perlman attended the world-famous MIT and graduated with a doctorate in computer science in 1988. She continues to lecture at worldwide institutions to this day.
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