5 Women in STEM Who Made History
Katherine Johnson, NASA Space Scientist
Born in 1918, 18-year old Katherine Johnson graduated from university. Johnson and her colleagues did the calculations that contributed NASA’s 1962 Friendship 7 Mission. In her career, she also co-authored over 20 scientific papers. Katherine Johnson was a true trail-blazer being a woman of colour working in STEM around hundreds of male scientists.
Marie Curie, Physicist
Born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, Marie Curie was the first woman in all of history to win a Nobel Prize in Physics. Not only that, her later win in chemistry made her the first person to earn Nobel honours twice! Marie Curie and her husband Pierre’s work also led to the radical discovery of elements polonium and radium, and she also was a pioneer in the development of X-rays. Unfortunately, Curie passed away due to complications from long-term exposures to radiation.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, Inventor & Computer Scientist
An American computer scientist and a Rear Admiral in the US Navy, Grace Hopper was a key inventor of the first programming language to use English words. Even though she was well under the minimum weight for joining the navy, she got an exemption and enlisted in WWII. After World War II, her and her associates discovered a moth gunking up one of the computers. Thus, she coined the term “debugging”. By 1952, Hopper invented an operational compiler, one of the first of their kind.
Rosalind Franklin is best known for her work on X-Ray images of DNA. Her infamous Photo 51 led to the discovery of the double helix structure by Watson, Crick, and Wilkins in 1962. Unfortunately, Rosalind Franklin never got recognized for her revolutionary work. Even Watson later suggested that she should be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, but the Nobel Committee has a rule to not make nominations after death.
Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace
Augusta Ada King-Noel (commonly known as Ada Lovelace) was an English mathematician and writer. She is famous for her work on Charles Babbage's mechanical, general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first one to realize that the machine could do things beyond basic calculations. Lovelace’s notes include the first algorithm that was intended for the use of the machine. In the technical sense, she was therefore the first ever programmer!
There have been so many intelligent, game-changing women that have made giant contributions to the world of science, in a time where they were discouraged or outright prohibited from doing so.