It comes as no surprise that throughout history, women in science haven’t been recognised for their achievements and in some instances, they’ve been erased from textbooks entirely. So, in celebration of phenomenal women in the workplace, past and present, here are nine female scientists and technicians you may not know, but should.
Hooper was one of the first computer programmers of the Harvard Mark 1 computer and invented the first compiler — a program that translates written instructions into codes that computers read directly.
It may seem like a small contribution to technology as we know it today, but she popularised the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, an early high-level programming language we still use today.
Hooper also correctly predicted that computers would one day be small enough to fit on a desk, and everybody would use them in their everyday lives.
Tereshkova is a retired Russian cosmonaut, engineer, and politician. She is the first woman to have flown in space, having been selected from more than 400 applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963.
She was also a politician and was still politically active following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, she is regarded as a hero in post-Soviet Russia.
Hoggan was the first woman to receive a doctorate in medicine from any university in Europe. She was a pioneering medical practitioner, researcher and social reformer – and the first female doctor registered in Wales. She and her husband opened the first husband and wife medical practice in Britain.
Wu made significant contributions in the field of nuclear physics and is best known for conducting the Wu experiment which contradicted the hypothetical law of conservation of parity. The discovery earned her colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics. But Wu wasn’t recognised for her contribution until two decades later when she was honoured the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics.
As well as her contribution to science, she was an outspoken feminist and fought against gender discrimination in the industry. She planned to study at the University of Michigan, but after hearing that Michigan women were not allowed to use the front entrance, she declined and enrolled at Berkley.
Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology she said to her audience, “I wonder whether the tiny atoms and nuclei, or the mathematical symbols, or the DNA molecules have any preference for either masculine or feminine treatment.”
Tacke made considerable advances in both chemistry and atomic physics. She is best known for helping her husband discover the element rhenium. But she also identified Masurium which is today better known as technetium — although its recognition is attributed to Carlo Perrier and Emilio Segre.
Tacke’s evidence of Masurium was ignored until Perrier and Segre artificially created the element in a laboratory. Tacke is also credited with being the first person to open up the idea of nuclear fission.
Nettie developed the concept of sex determination by chromosomes, although most books and research sites would point you to a man named Thomas Morgan. While she was recognised as working alongside him, nearly all of her observations were made independently. Morgan was later credited with the Nobel Prize for Nettie’s hard work.
Even more insulting, he later posted an article in the journal Science saying that Stevens acted as more of a technician rather than an actual scientist throughout the experiment — however, this statement was later found to be untrue.
Throughout her lifetime, she published 40 papers and is widely regarded as having expanded the field of embryology and genetics. Today, although Stevens may not be a household name, her research in DNA remain pivotal to the science community.
Another more recent example of gender discrimination in the world of science is Esther Lederberg, who was actually overshadowed and wronged by her husband, Joshua Lederberg rather than her colleagues.
Esther was a microbiologist and a pioneer of bacterial genetics; she developed basic techniques that helped scientists understand how genes work. Her discoveries were made alongside her husband and while they both played equally important roles, Esther’s contributions went mostly unrecognised as Joshua went on to win a Nobel Prize for their observations.
The daughter of the famed poet Lord Byron, Ada was an English writer and mathematician and is widely considered as the founder of scientific computing.
In 1843, she published instructions for the world’s first algorithm intended to be processed by a computer. Even though the proposed mechanical general-purpose network wasn’t built until the 21st century, her work earned her the title of the first computer programmer in history.
Last but definitely not least, modern day tech hero Kimberly Bryant. After earning a degree in electrical engineering and spending years working as a product manager in the pharmaceutical industry, Bryant wanted to help girls colour get into computer technology. In the US, black women are only 2 percent of the United States’ science and engineering workforce, while white men comprise 51 percent. Of Google’s 17 percent female tech force, less than 1 percent are black. In response, she kickstarted Black Girls Code, a business on a mission to change the face of technology by introducing girls from underrepresented communities to coding.
Images with thanks to Wiki Media