5 Incredible Women Who Shaped Technology As We Know It Today

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Marie Curie put it so well: “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”

And so it is with inventions, and moreso with women throughout history, including in recent years. Oftentimes groundbreaking work often goes unnoticed during the lifetime of inventors, or else is snapped up and repackaged by someone else who claims the glory.

Today The Good Human wants to highlight the outstanding acheivements and contributions of five remarkable women who changed the face of technology in various fields. Some are well known, others less so. But all of them deserve to be on this list – which I must admit was difficult to reduce down to merely five.

So please feel free to comment below and add any other names that you think are worthy of a mention. I am sure we will wholeheartedly agree with you. For now, let’s look at five of the women who have made a positive impact on society with their work.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr was born on 9th November 1914, and shot to fame as an actress, frequently gracing the silver screen. Lesser known is her work on a secret ccommunications system, which supported allied troops during World War 2. She was spurred into action to help with the developments in Europe after finding out that her husband had sold munitions to the Nazis.

Pairing up with George Anthill (also a pianist) she developed an unbreakable code, which manipulated radio frequency at irregular intervals between transmission and reception.

The technology that they discovered was used on Naval ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as many other military operations. While this is an enormous achievement in itself, outside of the military usage, we are also benefitting from their work today.

The technology, known as Spread spectrum is a highly efficient way of using radio waves to communicate.  Enabling many users to share radio frequencies concurrently, without interfering with each other. This is a huge change from the current, expensive way of using specific frequencies for individual use (radio stations and police contact for example). Spread spectrum has boosted digital communications, making wireless contact possible in cellular phones and fax machines for example.

Spread spectrum is a form of wireless communications in which the frequency of the transmitted signal is deliberately varied. This results in a much greater bandwidth than the signal would have if its frequency were not varied. ~ Search Networking.com

Lamar died in 2000 aged 85, and so was able to witness the growing significance of her invention. She was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award and was the first female to receive the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, (also known as “The Oscar™ of Inventing.”)

Ada Byron

Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace

Ada Byron, otherwise known as Lady Lovelace had a life worthy of a great novel. Born on 10th December 1815, she was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron, who was briefly married to her mother. Ada was pushed into theoretical work by her mother, who feared she would develop the ‘madness’ of her father.

Ada excelled as a mathematician and writer, particularly in her work alongside Charles Babbage, dubbed the father of computers. Babbage developed the early mechanical general-purpose computer – known as the Analytical Engine.

Ada, gifted with a creative brain, described herself as having a poetical scientific mindset. This allowed her to think outside the usual realms of problem solving, and saw the analytical machine in a more abstract way…developing what is considered the first algorithm.

[The Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine…

Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent. ~ Ada Byron

Her ideas, although not initially recognised, helped to pave the way towards the computers of today. She realised that they could be used for far more than number crunching – and is now considered the first computer programmer.

Lydia Villa-Komaroff

Lydia Villa-Komaroff
Lydia Villa-Komaroff

Lydia is a Mexican American cellular biologist with an incredible mind. She was part of a team who discovered how bacteria could be used to create human mammalian insulin in 1978.

Her scientific career has been truly remarkable and she now specialises in teaching and inspiring young scientists.

 “When you get your degree, it’s not a degree of limitation. As scientists, we identify problems and we figure out a way to solve them. A scientist fits in just about anywhere. We could use some more [scientists] in Congress and the Senate right now!” ~ Villa-Komaroff

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind was an English chemist who was born on 25th July 1920. Her contribution to the world of technology was groundbreaking, although this story is steeped in controversy.

Specialising in xray crystallography, she captured an image which showed that DNA structures are formed in a double helix. A disgruntled colleague showed her discovery to two scientists also working on DNA at the time, Watson and Crick, who almost immediately published a paper on the topic, only mentioning Franklin only in the references.

Despite being unfairly overlooked at the time, Franklin has now been recognised for her achievements within the study on DNA, and also with RNA, viruses, coal and graphite.

“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.” ~ Rosalind Franklin

Karen Spärck Jones

Karen Sparck Jones
Karen Sparck Jones

Born on 26th August 1935, Karen Spärck Jones is a British Computer Scientist  who spent much of her career working in the Cambridge Computer Laboratory.

She dedicated a large amount of time to information and document retrieval including speech applications, database query, user and agent modelling, summarising, and information and language system evaluation. She came up with a system known as Inverse Document Frequency (IDF) which is the basis of many search engines today.

“Computing is too important to be left to men”  Karen Spärck Jones

So there you have it, five if the best women who have changed the face of technology as we knew it. Their contributions, whether recognised initially or not, have advanced our understanding of the world in many ways.

Do you have some other names that you think should be featured? Go ahead and share in the comments below. As always, we would love to hear from you.

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