Inspiring Change: Women at the Forefront of Innovation – MSAB

Inspiring Change: Women at the Forefront of Innovation - MSAB

Inspiring Change: Women at the Forefront of Innovation Visionary thinkers. Groundbreaking scientists. Daring innovators. Our history is filled with remarkable women who defied conventions and boundaries, leaving an indelible mark on the trajectory of our world and the evolution of technology. We want to take a chance to shine a light on the lives and accomplishments of some of these remarkable women. From paving the way for today’s Wi-Fi to taking us to the stars, their legacies continue to shape the way we live, work, and interact with the world around us. And that’s no small feat. In this article, we barely scratch the surface. We could spend hours on end talking about the contributions of women and all the countless ways each of them shaped society as we know it. But, for now, let’s turn to these pioneers who through their work paved the way for future generations to thrive in whichever fields they set their mind to. *And because we ran a quiz on LinkedIn testing your knowledge on some of the amazing contributions of women throughout history, this is a great chance to check your answers and find out the correct results while also learning more about these exceptional individuals! Ada Lovelace A visionary mathematician and writer, Ada Lovelace is known as the first computer programmer for her groundbreaking contributions to computing in the 19th century. She collaborated closely with Charles Babbage on his proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. It was in this collaboration that Ada Lovelace wrote what is now considered the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. She recognized that this “engine” had the potential to go beyond mere numerical calculations. A hundred years prior to the rise of modern computers, she imagined a machine capable of processing musical notes, letters, and images—a truly revolutionary concept. Ada Lovelace’s work laid the foundation for modern programming and computer science. Today, she is celebrated as a pioneer in computing, with her work inspiring generations of programmers and highlighting the limitless possibilities of technology in the hands of imaginative minds. Fun Fact: All the other responses in that poll were also innovations by women. Mary Anderson conceived the idea for a windshield wiper blade while riding through New York City on a snowy day in the early 1900s. With her patent in 1903, Anderson’s invention became the first effective device for clearing windshields. Marie Van Brittan Brown made a significant contribution to safety by inventing the first home security system in 1966. Her creation, the initial closed-circuit television security system, laid the foundation for the modern home security systems in use today. Stephanie Kwolek developed the first in a series of synthetic fibers known for their remarkable strength and rigidity in 1965. The most famous of these fibers is Kevlar, a material utilized in protective vests, as well as in boats, airplanes, ropes, cables, and more. Hedy Lamarr Some people remember her as a Hollywood sensation. Others recognize her as the inventive genius behind the “frequency hopping” spread spectrum technology. We’re not picking sides, but if we were… pioneering technology that fundamentally changed the way society works by laying the groundwork for GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi technology is undeniably a remarkable achievement. Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress and Hollywood starlet. She achieved both stardom and notoriety in the Czech film  Extase (1932). In 1937 she went to Hollywood, where she appeared in numerous productions, like the classic romantic drama  Algiers (1938), White Cargo (1942), or Samson and Delilah (1949), her most commercially successful film. What the world didn’t know was that in between takes, Hedy Lamarr, would work on inventions, driven by her incredible desire for innovation.   Her impressive track record was just beginning. In 1941 she filed a patent for frequency-hopping communications systems, thus pioneering the technology that would one day form the basis for today’s WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems. Fun Fact The Hollywood star-turned-inventor who helped develop technologies we use so broadly today, was honored in a smart and stylish 2015 Google Doodle on her 101st birthday. Give it a watch! Grace Hopper In a field traditionally dominated by men, such as the computer programming industry, it’s easy to let it slip from memory that a woman – Grace Hopper – helped the computer revolution get off the ground. Computer scientist and mathematician Grace Hopper is credited with creating the first compiler, a tool that converts programming languages that can be read by humans into machine code. She strongly believed that computers would someday be widely used and helped to make them more user friendly. Hopper was instrumental in the development of the first high-level programming language, COBOL, making computing more accessible and efficient. Her groundbreaking work revolutionized how we interact with computers, laying the foundation for modern software development. Fun Fact: Bugs, debugging and role a moth played in it all The term “bug” actually predates computers and was first used in engineering and technical contexts. However, its popularization in the realm of computing is often attributed to an incident involving Grace Hopper. In September 1947, Hopper was working alongside a team of engineers on the Harvard Mark II computer, one of the earliest electromechanical computers, a massive machine that filled an entire room. During her work on this project, she and her team encountered a persistent problem: the computer kept malfunctioning, and they couldn’t figure out why. After some investigation, they discovered that a moth had flown into the machine and was trapped in one of the relays, causing a short circuit. The operators removed the moth and taped it into the logbook with the notation: “First actual case of bug being found.” The term “bug” stuck and became a widely used term to describe any kind of flaw or glitch in a computer program and was quickly followed by the emergence of the term “debugging”. Since then, debugging has been used to describe the process of finding and fixing errors in computer programs. While the historical accuracy of this tale may have its own bugs, the story of the moth in the logbook has earned its place in computer science lore. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were pioneering figures whose contributions to NASA’s early space missions were groundbreaking. Katherine Johnson , a mathematician, played a crucial role in calculating trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo missions. Her precise calculations were integral to the success of these missions, including John Glenn’s historic orbit around Earth. Johnson’s work was so trusted that Glenn himself reportedly insisted that she personally check the electronic computer’s calculations before his flight.   Dorothy Vaughan , as a mathematician and NASA’s first African American manager, made significant strides in computer programming during her tenure. She led a team of “human computers,” women mathematicians who performed complex calculations before the advent of electronic computers. Vaughan’s leadership was pivotal in transitioning her team to work with IBM computers, recognizing the potential of this technology far ahead of her time. Her efforts not only advanced NASA’s capabilities but also opened doors for women and minorities in the field of mathematics and engineering.   Mary Jackson, an aerospace engineer, broke barriers as NASA’s first African American female engineer. Her work focused on aerodynamics, working to improve aircraft design and contributing to the Space Shuttle program. Jackson also played a key role in advocating for equal opportunities for women at NASA, helping to pave the way for future generations of diverse scientists and engineers.   Together, these women not only made history but also paved the way for a more inclusive and diverse space program. Fun Fact: The names and incredible contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were immortalized in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” a cinematic adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book with the same title. Behind countless innovations and breakthroughs, there often stands a visionary, daring woman. Let’s carry their torch forward. Let’s continue to challenge boundaries and write history. Just like they did. Stay up to date Want to receive the MSAB blog posts straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter and join our community. 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