They were among the first scientists to build modern programming and technology sequencing foundations. Their work led to the discovery of new genes and broke significant barriers in science and society. Sharing their stories can be a powerful way to inspire more young women to pursue careers in science.
We've compiled a list of 5 women who have made significant contributions to the tech world. This list is not exhaustive; so many women are making great strides in STEM! Here are some notable women in technology:
Ada Lovelace (1815 - 1852)
“The science of operations, as derived from mathematics more especially, is a science of itself, and has its own abstract truth and value.”
Mathematician || Inventor
Ada Lovelace was a mathematician, writer and inventor. She was the daughter of the romantic poet Lord Byron, and her mother was author Annabella Milbanke Byron. Ada's mathematical talent shone through in her early life, and this interest in machines led to her working relationship with Charles Babbage.
Babbage was the inventor of an "Analytical Engine", a complicated device that was never actually created but resembled the elements of a modern computer. As a result of her work on the project, Ada is often referred to as the "world's first computer programmer". It was Ada's notes on the Analytical Engine that inspired Alan Turing to work on his own designs for computers in the 1940s. Her collaboration with Babbage led to her becoming one of the most important pioneers in cybersecurity. The image below is Alan Turing’s Enigma Code Breaker that was built based on Ada Lovelace’s notes.
Edith Clarke (1883- 1959)
"There is no demand for women engineers, as such, as there are for women doctors; but there's always a demand for anyone who can do a good piece of work. "
Edith Clarke, born on February 18, 1883, became the first female electrical engineer. In 1921, she joined the faculty of the University of Texas (Austin-United States) as a professor of electrical engineering, becoming the first woman to hold such a position in the United States. She later wrote a book called Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems (1935). Her career was stellar, and she was highly regarded after her death in October 1959.
Edith Clarke, a pioneering data analyst, Edith was able to use an analyzer to find useful data about power networks, which many engineers found difficult to understand. In 1921, Edith Clarke invented the "Clarke Calculator," which simplified calculations for inductance and capacitance in power transmission lines.
Clarke graph calculator Image from Wikipedia
She translated what they saw as complex mathematical methods into graphs or simpler forms. This was during a time when power systems were becoming more complex and when initial efforts were being made to develop electromechanical aids like computers to aid in problem-solving.
Grace Hopper (1906 - 1992)
“The only phrase I’ve ever disliked is, ‘Why, we’ve always done it that way.’ I always tell young people, ‘Go ahead and do it. You can always apologize later.'”
Computer Scientist | Mathematician
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, born on 1906 December 9, made significant contributions to the development of computer languages. She developed COBOL—the Common Business-Oriented Language—and other programming languages written in English instead of mathematical notation. Her work is honored today by the annual "Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing" Conference.
Grace hopper and the COBOL machine from Wikipedia
After graduating from Vassar College in 1928, Hopper enrolled in Yale University, where she earned master's (1930) and doctorate (1934) degrees in mathematics. She taught mathematics at Vassar before joining the United States Naval Reserve as a lieutenant in 1943. She remained at Harvard as a civilian research fellow while maintaining her naval career as a reservist. During World War II, she worked at Harvard University's Computation Lab on Mark I, the first large-scale automatic calculator and a precursor to electronic computers. She wrote A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, the first extensive treatment of how to program a computer
Hedy Lamarr (1914 - 2000)
“Films have a certain place in a certain time period. Technology is forever.”
Actress | Inventor
In addition to being a movie star, Hedy Lamarr was also a pioneering inventor. Though she first gained fame for her acting, in later years, Lamarr would be remembered for her inventions. She was not interested in partying or socialising with Hollywood's gentry, so she spent her night's tinkering, building, and experimenting in her workshop. Her inventions ranged from a tablet that could dissolve in water and transform into a soda drink to a new and improved design for traffic lights.
Lamarr’s most notable invention was the result of her desire to help America to win World War II. She developed a system; frequency hopping. A radio guidance system for torpedoes that was able to avoid jamming by changing frequencies thousands of times per second. The idea was so ingenious that it formed the basis of modern communication technology.
Although the U.S. Navy did not use Lamarr’s invention during World War II, it was used for radio transmissions during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Today, frequency hopping is used for Bluetooth technology that we find in countless devices and early forms of Wi-Fi. The technology laid the foundation for GPS, which you use on your smartphone on a regular basis. Lamarr’s inventive mind contributed greatly to today's world.
Elizabeth Feinler (1931 - )
“If you’ve got a good idea, I think you can run with it. It probably still takes as much GUTS. To get me out there.”
Elizabeth Feinler, who was born in 1931, loved collecting data and worked for ARPANET and the Defense Data Network from 1972 to 1989. She was the director of these projects, which were under contract with the Department of Defense.
Her group developed the first Internet "yellow" and "white" pages as well as the first query-based network hostname and address (WHOIS) servers. Elizabeth is known for introducing the domain name protocol; she's the one who made it possible for us to use dot coms, dot nets, and dot govs every day.
Changing the world
At Overt we wish to celebrate these women and their evergoing contributions to todays digital world. Throughout history, some of the most famous inventors have come from all walks of life. What they all had in common was an idea, a vision to deliver, and especially the spirit of never giving up. Though there are thousands of female inventors, in this article, we hope that by commemorating these fantastic inventors, that you will be inspired to never give up on reaching your dreams.