08 Mar 2022 - 1 min read

Celebrating the Women of STEM on International Women’s Day

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From Ada Lovelace to Grace Hopper, there is no shortage of exceptional women throughout history who have not only contributed to – but shaped – the face of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Their work has forever changed the way we live, work and communicate – but their input isn’t always fairly acknowledged or celebrated.

Today, on International Women’s Day 2022, we celebrate the work of the pioneering women of STEM, who have lived and breathed this year’s IWD theme; #BreakTheBias; facing stereotyping and discrimination because of their gender, fighting inequity and dismissal at every turn, and yet continuing to forge their own path in a traditionally male-dominated sector. In doing so, they have made way for a whole new generation of women in STEM – and changed our world forever.

Augusta Ada King of Lovelace – Mathematician

Described by The New Yorker as “the first tech visionary”, Augusta Ada King of Lovelace, daughter of Lord and Lady Byron and better known as Ada Lovelace, is perhaps best known for writing the first computer algorithm during her collaboration with Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine.

Recognised as the world’s first computer programmer, Ada struck up a correspondence with Babbage at just 17 years old in which she discussed the potential of a prototype that Babbage was working on; a machine with the potential to make reliable calculations at the turn of a wheel. As their communications continued over time, Ada was Babbage’s first choice to work with him on his latest invention, the Analytical Engine.

Ada’s published work on the Analytical Engine is considered to be one of the greatest ever contributions to computer science.

Adriana Ocampo – Planetary Geologist

A planetary geologist and the Science Program Manager at NASA Headquarters, Dr. Ocampo is a Columbian-born scientist, who has worked on a number of NASA planetary science projects, including the Juno mission to Jupiter and the New Horizons mission to Pluto.

Dr. Ocampo has been named one of the 50 most important women in science.

Katherine Johnson – NASA Space Scientist

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for a lifetime of work as a pioneering physicist, mathematician and space scientist, Katherine Johnson, along with her colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, did the calculations for NASA’s 1962 Friendship 7 Mission. Co-authoring over 25 scientific papers, a successful and much-loved teacher, and also a highly-esteemed research mathematician, Katherine was just 18 years old when she graduated university, and was one of the first African American female scientists at NASA in the 1950s.

Florence Nightingale – Reformer & Statistician

Famously known as ‘the Lady with the Lamp’ due to her heroic nursing efforts during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was credited for reducing the war’s death rate from 42% to just 2%. A pioneer of new hospital systems, as well as improved sanitation within working-class homes, she is regarded as the inventor of modern nursing.

Florence’s ability to present statistical information in a visual form led to the development of a proportional pie chart that’s still in use today; the Diagram of the Causes of Mortality.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper – Inventor & Computer Scientist

“Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

An American computer scientist, and Rear Admiral in the US Navy, Grace Hopper invented the first programming language to use English words. Recognised as the primary inventor of the widely used programming language, COBOL, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar in 1928 with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics, and earned her Master’s degree at Yale University in 1930.

Even though she only weighed 105 pounds – well below the minimum weight for joining the Navy – she requested an exemption and enlisted in WWII. After the war, still working for the Navy, her associates discovered a moth inside the Mark II Computer that was affecting its performance. It was removed and Grace coined the term, “debugging”.

To learn more about the pioneering women of STEM, visit STEMWomen. And for a wide range of resources on International Women’s Day, click here.

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