When we think of the great names in the history of technology, people like George Boole, Alan Turing, or even Bill Gates come to mind. Women do not usually show in the list, despite the fact that their work is as relevant as their male counterparts. Some of these women set the bases for some of the most important technological advances of our contemporary world.
In today's article, we want to recognize some of the brilliant women of the past who played a crucial role in advancing technology and whose work continues to impact today's world of computer science or the internet.
Augusta Ada Byron (aka Ada Lovelace), daughter of the poet Lord Byron and Anna Isabella Byron, is considered the first computer programmer in history. While working with Charles Babbage on his “analytical engine,” she developed calculations and algorithms that later applied to modern computer programming. Her theories were the basis for Alan Turing´s design of the first modern computer.
In the mid-20th Century, computer scientist Grace Hopper was widely recognized in the field. Dr. Hopper was a pioneerwho invented one of the first linkers. She also was the first to develop the theory of machine-independent programming languages. The programming language that she created led to creating the universal programming language COBOL, still used today.
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, aka Hedy Lamarr, was an Austrian actress and engineer who designed the first version of the spread-spectrum to use as a torpedo remote control system in World War II. This spectrum would later be used in long-distance communications and laid the foundations of Wireless Fidelity, or Wi-Fi as we know it today.
Radia Perlman is a US computer programmer and network engineer worldly recognized for her invention of the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) algorithm. This protocol aims to ensure network bridges and guarantee that there are no loops in communication. This protocol is essential for communication between computers and systems and served to establish the Internet's foundations. Her work in this field earned her the nickname "the Mother of the Internet."
NASA's first space trip would have been unthinkable without Katherine Johnson, a US mathematician, physicist, and space scientist, whose calculations and analysis of astrodynamics, the scientific study of the motion of projectiles in space and its relation to the gravitational interaction force, were critical to the many space missions' success, including the moon landing of Apollo XI.
These are just a few of the women who have made history in the field of technology. However, the list of influential women in science is much longer, from Joan Clarke, main cryptanalyst on Alan Turing's Enigma Project team in World War II, to Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT and responsible for the preliminary studies that led to the development of fiber optics.
Women have played, and continue to play, a vital role in the history of technology. We firmly believe in the importance of disseminating their stories to recognize their work and their role in the advancement of science.
If you want to learn more about great women in history, we recommend our previous publications on the "Outstanding Women Series". These are the links, in case you want to take a look at them.