Women throughout history have made groundbreaking contributions to math and science, and fought hard to break through barriers that kept them from participating in male dominated spaces. The courage, creativity, and strength of women of all backgrounds in the face of gender inequality and systemic discrimination has also opened doors for women pursuing careers in the technology field today.
As we celebrate Women's History Month and International Women's Day, we're honoring women in the field of computer science and information technology who have made remarkable achievements that continue to influence our understanding of data and technology.
From programming languages, computer networking, to hardware and software - here are some key women in the history of science and technology who have made crucial contributions to the field.
Katherine Johnson was a mathematician known for her time working for NASA as one of the first African-American women scientists in the organization.
She was instrumental in calculating the trajectories for some of the most influential space missions in history, including the first American in space and the Apollo 11 mission that landed astronauts on the moon. Johnson's calculations were crucial in ensuring the safety and success of these missions.
Johnson's work was also critical in the development of the space shuttle program and in the early stages of NASA's mission to send humans to Mars. Her legacy as a pioneer in science and technology continues to inspire generations of young people, especially women and people of color.
Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer who is considered to be the first computer programmer.
Both privately educated and self-educated, Lovelace wrote the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, which was for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine (a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer).
Recognizing the potential of computing technology to extend beyond simple calculation, Lovelace's work laid the foundation in modern computer programming for scientific and artistic use.
Joan Clarke was an English mathematician and cryptanalyst who worked for the British government during World War II. Working alongside Alan Turing, she played a crucial role in cracking the German Enigma code which was used to encrypt military messages.
As one of the few women working in Bletchley Park at the Government Code and Cipher School, Clarke's work on real-time navy cipher decoding allowed for swift military action, saving countless resources and lives.
Clarke's work was essential to the Allied war effort. She went on to have a successful career in computer programming, aiding in the development of one of the first digital computers.
Radia Perlman is a computer scientist and network engineer who developed the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), which is used in Ethernet networks to prevent loops. She holds B.S. and M.S. mathematics degrees, and a PhD in Computer Science from MIT. During the 1960s, she was one of the 50 women out of 1000 men studying at the university at the time.
Recognized as a pioneer of teaching younger audiences about computer programming, Perlman also developed a child-friendly robotics language (TORTIS) that allowed kids as young as 3 and a half to program an educational robot called Turtle.
Perlman's work has been crucial to the development of modern computer networking, particularly in how networks move and self-organize data. Coauthor of the popular college textbook Network Security: Private Communication in a Public World, Perlman's expertise continues to provide insight for those studying networking to this day.
Evelyn Boyd Granville
Evelyn Boyd Granville is a mathematician and one of the first African American women to receive a doctoral degree in mathematics.
She worked for IBM and the National Bureau of Standards, where she was on the team that developed computer programs used for trajectory analysis in space flight. Granville also worked on the development of the first digital computer used by NASA, and she helped design computer software used for orbit computations and control of spacecrafts.
After her retirement, Granville continued to be a strong advocate for education and increasing access to STEM fields for underrepresented groups. Granville's contributions to the field of technology have helped pave the way for future generations of diverse leaders and innovators in the field.