Women’s achievements in STEM
The pursuit of knowledge in STEM fields has often been (and still is) the realm of men. But many trailblazing women have pursued educations and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to pave the way for women today. To name them all would mean having to write several books, so we chose just a small number of brilliant women who changed the world of STEM with their knowledge and discoveries.
1. The first algorithm – Ada Lovelace
Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace was Lord Byron’s only legitimate child and showed mathematical abilities early on in life. She was lucky enough to have had those abilities nurtured and encouraged by her mother and went on to work with Charles Babbage, who is known as “the father of computers”. Based on this work, Lovelace is now considered by many to be the first computer programmer and her method has been called the world’s first computer program. Sadly, her program was never tested.
Interesting fact: Ada’s mother, Lady Byron, was also a mathematician.
2. Calculating key trajectories in the Space Race – Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson was a NASA mathematician who played a key role in numerous NASA missions during the Space Race. Her most notable achievement was calculating the trajectory needed to get the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and back. As a black woman working for NASA in the 1950s and ’60s, Johnson overcame social boundaries and racial discrimination.
Interesting fact: Her career was the subject of the 2016 book and movie “Hidden Figures.”
3. Mathematical model for the structure of nuclear shells – Maria Goeppert-Mayer
In the late 1940s,this German-born American theoretical physicist developed a mathematical model for the structure of nuclear shells, which she published in 1950. Her model explained why certain numbers of nucleons in an atomic nucleus result in particularly stable configurations.
Interesting fact: She joined the Manhattan Project in 1942, a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons.
4. Frequency-hopping radio technology – Hedy Lamarr
Movie-star turned inventor Hedy Lamarr enjoyed a successful career in Hollywood while simultaneously working on her inventions. Although Lamarr had no formal training and was primarily self-taught, she was dedicated to her various hobbies and inventions. During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes could easily be jammed and set off course. She contacted her friend, composer and pianist George Antheil, to help her develop a device for a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed.
Interesting fact: Hedy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
5. Computer languages written in English, instead of mathematical notation – Grace Hopper
United States Navy rear admiral and computer scientist, Grace Hopper was the first to devise the theory of machine-independent programming languages. She also devised the FLOW-MATIC programming language she created using this theory was later extended to create COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today.
Interesting fact: During her lifetime, Hopper was awarded 40 honorary degrees from universities across the world.
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