With the recent buzz of the Wonder Woman film, we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the women in the tech industry. STEAM efforts around the globe are helping create more women tech wonders than ever before, but let’s look at a few of the original female tech super heros.
“That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show”
- Ada Lovelace
You might have heard Ada’s name before, as she was one of the first female computer scientists. In 1842 Lovelace is known for her development of Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer. You may not know that Lovelace was the first person to create an algorithm to be carried out by machine, or that her dad was Lord Byron, the British Poet. He may not have been talking about his daughter, but when thinking of Ada Lovelace and computing, she definitely walked in beauty.
“If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to ask for permission.”
Hopper was often referred to as “Amazing Grace” due to her work as an American computer scientist and rear admiral in the United States Navy. She was one of the first programmers, in 1944, to program the Harvard Mark I computer. Hopper also invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and helped pioneer ideas about machine-independent programming languages, leading to the development of COBOL, the original high-level programming languages.
“A straight line can readily be drawn among each of the two series of points corresponding to maxima and minima, thus showing that there is a simple relation between the brightness of the variables and their periods.”
-Henrietta Swan Leavitt, describing her famous discovery.
In 1893, Leavitt joined a group of women at Harvard to further astronomy through computer science. The group, called “computers”, produced astronomical data at the university. Leavitt became a crucial element in the discovery “the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars” according to Wikipedia. She also measured a reported 200 stars throughout her career. She received very little acclaim during her life, but after death became celebrated as the first person to be able to calculate distant galaxies from Earth.
“No wonder that Churchill described this effort [the British codebreakers working at Bletchley Park] as “Britain's secret weapon,” a weapon far more effective than the buzz bombs and the rockets that Werner von Braun designed for a German victory, a weapon absolutely decisive, in the judgement of many, in winning the war for the Allies.”
- Peter Hilton, on the women of Bletchley Park
According to The Guardian: “From 1942 to 1945, she was one of around 8,000 women drafted in from around the country to work at Bletchley Park, home of the infamous World War Two codebreakers and, of course, training ground of Alan Turing, father of the modern computer.” These women were instrumental in giving the Allies the upper hand during the war. The code breakers received almost no acclaim as “those who spent the war there did not risk life and limb for their country; their weapons were mathematics and deduction, not bayonets or bombs – and, perhaps as a result, recognition of their efforts has been unquestionably slow.” It wasn’t until 2009 that the incredible work accomplished made it to the limelight in films like The Imitation Game.
Modern Day Wonder Women of Tech
While we have only listed a very, very few women who have inspired computer sciences, we would like to point out how the spirit of these superheros live on in the world. See WWT (Wonder Women in Tech), an annual conference held every year to celebrate STEAM education. You can see the conference website here.
Every year, 2,500 women gather to “highlight, educate, and celebrate women and diversity in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), innovation and entrepreneurialism.” Each conference holds “speakers, panel discussions, coding classes, workshops, hackathons, community inclusion activities, thought leadership, and other dynamic programming geared towards empowering women, girls, people of color, the underrepresented, and diverse communities.”
This year, WWT will be held in Long Beach, FL; Washington D.C.; and London. To get involved with this amazing collaboration or to be a sponsor, be sure you visit: https://wonderwomentech.com/. Celebrate the women in your field, and if you happen to be a computer science superhero, we salute you.