In order to look forward to the future, it is important that we look back and recognise where the ideas and concepts originated from. There are numerous innovations we take for granted in the modern day that without the work of some very talented people would not have happened and our understanding of the world may be on a very different track. There are a many women that we need to thank for improving the way the world works, but here are a few women whose names are often forgotten:
Ada Lovelace: The First Computer Programmer
Ada was a mathematician that created the first algorithm for a computer programme after coming to the realisation that the computers could do more than simply make calculations. Her impact on the development of modern computerised systems was seen as so influential that she has a day dedicated to her which takes place each year in October and celebrates the work of women in STEM.
Fatima al-Fihri: Founder of The First University
After the death of her father, she used her inheritance to found the first recorded educational establishment that issued degrees – the University of Al Qarawiynn. The university still stands today in Fez, Morocco which is amazing, considering it all began in 859 CE. Her generosity and inquisitive mind for learning was fundamental in the formation of higher education institutions around the globe.
Nettie Stevens: Discovering the XY Chromosome
She worked in biology and genetics, one of her most notable pieces of work was the use mealworms to discover that sex determination of an individual occurs through the combination of X and Y chromosomes. The knowledge from the discovery has continued to be vital for informing work on genetics and biology.
Hedy Lamarr: Inspiration for Wireless Communication
Often was only credited as a major Hollywood film actress in the 1940’s and 50’s but Hedy was much more. She was an inventor that wanted to help during the WW2 so developed a radio guidance system for missiles based on her idea of frequency hopping. Although not used at the time, this invention is the foundation for many technologies used today such as Bluetooth, WiFi, SatNav and many more!
Stephanie Kwolek: Keeping Us Safe with Kevlar
She was an American chemist who produced a completely new range of synthetic fibers that were a lot stronger than there predecessors. The most well-known of these fibers is Kevlar and is most commonly known for its use in protective vests that are widely used by police officers and the military. However, the substance actually has numerous uses: boats, planes, ropes for bridge suspension, frying pans etc.
Lady Murasaki: Introducing The World’s First Novelist
She was a Japanese writer and imperial lady-in-waiting, it was uncovered that she had kept written account of her experiences within the court in the form of a diary and had even written the Tale of Genji. This is believed to be the first record novel; it is story of romance and provides insight into the atmosphere of the time. Unfortunately, real name remains unknown but the gift of novels she gave to us will be remembered.
Valentina Tereshkova: The First Female Astronaut
Valentina deserves a mention as she beat out hundreds of applicants to get her chance to pilot a rocket and become the first woman in space! Valentina went on to instruct the next generation of cadets, promote science and got involved in politics. She is still the only woman to have ever piloted a solo mission in space.
Alice Parker: Heating a Home
Alice was an inventor that submitted a patent for the use of natural gas in heating furnaces allowing people to heat their entire homes through pipes and make stockpiling wood to burn unnecessary. The idea of central heating in houses and business had not been thought about in this context before. It is now an integral part of life that was led by her notion that people could be kept warm whilst at home or at work.