Women Who Changed the World Through Tech

Women today have enjoyed success in most fields of employment. Before this was possible, some women made huge strides in technology even when the environment posed numerous challenges for them.
Despite the obstacles they faced, their work paved the way for improvements that allowed the advanced technologies we see and use today.
Here, read about some noteworthy women who made significant contributions in the tech world.



Ada Lovelace

The history of computers cannot be discussed without Ada Lovelace being mentioned.
Lovelace was born to Anna Isabella-Byron and her husband Lord Byron, a poet in London. Her mother hired tutors to homeschool her, with an emphasis on mathematics and science. Lovelace developed a great affinity for both subjects, which paid off as she became a writer and mathematician.
Lovelace’s path aligned with technology after she began working closely with Charles Babbage. Babbage was the inventor of the Analytical Engine. This was a complicated contraption that was never created but had elements of the modern computers in use today.
Lovelace wrote detailed notes concerning the Analytical Engine. Alan Turing used these notes as he worked on inventing the first modern computer.



Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper is one of the women who changed the world through tech.

Hopper was a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and a mathematician. She attended Yale University after graduating from Vassar College. She then taught math at Vassar College before joining the Navy.

At a project in Harvard, Hopper helped create MARK 1, the first premier large-scale automatic calculator. Hopper was involved in the development of the UNIVAC 1, the first commercial electronic computer.

She also helped develop applications for common business-oriented language (COBOL) for the Navy. By the 1970s, COBOL had become the most used computer language in the world.

In 1952, Hopper developed the first-ever compiler called the A-O system. It translated mathematical code into code that machines can interpret.

This was foundational to modern programming languages.

Grace retired as the oldest serving officer in the U.S. Army at the age of 79. She then became a consultant until she passed away in 1992.



Annie Easley

Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist. Her early career saw her working as a ‘human computer, doing the math for researchers.
When machines replaced human computers, Easley became a stellar computer programmer. She became quite adept with using languages like Formula Translating System (Fortran) and the Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program (SOAP) to support several NASA’s programs.
Easley developed and implemented code used in energy conversion research systems and alternative power tech analysis. The latter included research into the battery technology utilized in Centaur upper stage rockets and early hybrid cars.
Easley enjoyed a successful 34-year career at NASA.



Mary Wilkes

Mary Allen Wilkes was born in Chicago in 1937. Her first degree was in philosophy, acquired from Wellesley College. In her early career, she would work on IBM 704 and IBM 709.
Wilkes gradually transitioned into a logic designer and computer programmer that would leave a mark in tech.
Today, Wilkes is mainly known for her contribution to the LINC computer, which is considered the first personal computer.
The LINC was a 2-bit system that used transistors instead of valves. Today’s personal computers have their roots in the LINC computer Wilkes worked on with the LINC team.
Wilkes used the computer in 1956 in her home, making her the first person to use a home computer.



Adele Goldberg

Adele Goldberg was born in Ohio in 1945 and acquired a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Michigan. She later received a Ph.D. in Information Science.
In the 1970s, Goldberg was part of a team at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). This team built the Smalltalk-80 together. The Smalltalk-80 was a programming language designed to allow windows to overlap on display screens. This was also known as the Graphical User Interface (GUI).
This development was later presented to Steve Jobs, who integrated many of its concepts into his Apple products. It’s often said that without this contribution, Apple products would likely have taken a different form than the one that exists today.
Today, the graphical User Interface allows you to point and click on your PC or open a new window.



Mary Keller

In 1958, Keller founded the National Science Foundation workshop in Dartmouth College’s computer science department.
She then teamed up with two colleagues to form the BASIC computer programming language.
Keller became one of the famous women to earn a Ph.D. in computer science, which she received from Clarke College. The university later established a Computer Science scholarship in her honor.
Computer language is in zeros and ones. BASIC is a method used to translate these numerals into something much more straightforward and intuitive. This general-purpose language opened computer science up to more people.



Radia Perlman

Most people today cannot imagine a life where social media does not exist. The internet has become central to most things we do, from shopping, entertainment, finding our way around, school and work research, etc.
Very few people, however, are aware of how this invention came about.
Mathematician and engineer Radia Perlman was among the distinguished women involved in creating what we now call the internet.
Perlman schooled at the famed MIT before becoming a frontrunner in the field of computer science. One of her most noteworthy accomplishments was developing the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) algorithm.
Developers were at the time grappling with the information routing challenge. STP helped resolve this and made the internet what it is today.
STP is essentially a protocol that manages links by preventing network loops. If allowed to occur, Layer 2 loops would disconnect the local area network. STP functioned by disconnecting redundant links to prevent loops.


Katherine Johnson

Johnson was so brilliant and respected in math that she was sometimes called ”the computer” in her earlier career. She would later help NASA send astronauts into space. During one flight, Johnson ran the computer-fed numbers by hand, as a personal request from John Glenn. So trusted was she that the flight only took off at her say so.
Johnson started school at such a young age that she graduated college at the age of 18. She took up family life until the age of 34 when she learned of a company hiring African American ‘human computers’. These were professionals hired to perform math at a high level.



Karen Spärck Jones

Karen SpärckJones was a British computer scientist specializing in information retrieval and natural language processing.
The British woman also introduced the Inverse Document Frequency (IDF) concept of Information Retrieval. IDF is a feature that weighs how relevant certain words are to a document.
This is something used by millions of people every single day when making search engine queries.
Jones is a significant figure in the Natural Language Processing (NLP) field in America and beyond. These remain substantial contributions in tech to date.



Elizabeth Feinler

This remarkable woman showed remarkable leadership as the former Director of the Network Information Systems Network at Stanford Research Institute.
During her computing career, Feinler ran the Network Information Centre in California from 1972 to 1989. This served as an information resource and is often dubbed as the ‘prehistoric Google’, primarily because the NIS was the first place that published resources and directories for the internet.
Besides the leadership role at Stanford, she was also a pioneer information scientist.
Feinler and her group are also credited with creating the domain names .edu, .com, .gov, and .net.
These are significant contributions that earn Feinler a top spot on the list of women who changed the world through tech.

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