In the spirit of Women’s day (and women’s month) we would like to take a moment to reflect on some of the most influential women in the history of technology.
While Steve Jobs and Bill Gates may be the names that come to mind when you think of “famous techies” there have been several remarkable women in the world of technology, without whom the world as we know it today would not simply not exist.
Why don’t you know about them? Maybe it’s because these girls were too busy getting the job done to go around being famous. Maybe it’s just coincidence. Whatever the reason, we would like to take a moment to salute them.
Way back in 1842, Ada Lovelace wrote what is now considered to be the first algorithm. Ada was a mathematician who understood that numbers could be used to represent more than just quantities. She grasped that a machine which could manipulate numbers could be made to manipulate any data represented by numbers. She was the first computer programmer, and yes, there is tech named after her today.
Evelyn Boyd Granville
In 1949 Evelyn Boyd Granville became the second Africa-American woman to be awarded her PhD in mathematics. She worked for IBM from 1956 to 1960, on two groundbreaking space programs, the Project Vanguard and Project Mercury. She developed computer procedures and analyzed orbits and celestial mechanics. Being an African-American woman, Evelyn faced not only gender bias but racial discrimination too. In 1951, Granville and two African American colleagues were denied entrance to a regional meeting of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), because it was held at a whites-only hotel. This didn’t stop her from being a total techie badass, though.
One of the most important women in the history of tech is the lady who is responsible for that “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Margaret was a working mother, whose daughter would sleep on the floor of her MIT office, while Margaret wrote the code which landed Apollo 11 on the moon. Her code then went on to become the basis for operating systems which would be developed into software as we know it. Not bad for a working mom.
Here she is standing next to the code she wrote (by hand) for the Moon landing.
More amazing women in the world of tech
The “human” computers – Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Frances Spence, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff and Ruth Lichterman: These ladies were the brains behind ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer. They were computer programmers back before the guys found out how cool it was.
Jean E. Sammet – Jean developed the FORMAC programming language. She was also the first female president of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1974.
Adele Goldberg – She was one of the designers and developers of the first Smalltalk language.
Susan Kare – Susan created the icons and quite a few of the interface elements for the original Apple Mac in the ‘80’s. Without her our PC’s and Macs might just be populated with lists of text rather than user-friendly, clickable icons.
More about women in tech.