It’s no secret that the heavily male-dominated field of science has been notoriously difficult for women to break into. With the combination of hard work, creativity, and self-determination, these women pioneers started a revolution for women today in the field of science, mathematics, and technology.
But how can we celebrate them without knowing them? Below we’re sharing 7 “Oh my god, how did I not hear this before?” stories. These 7 women were models, actresses, veterans, police officers, wives, mothers and oh –yeah some kick-ass scientists.
As collegiate women we are constantly learning, growing and improving. These are the years where we must look for real women role models who have paved the way for us today. We should look to these women for inspiration as we take our own steps towards discoveries, enlightenment, and understanding.
Grace M. Hopper
When you think of computer programming you better think of Grace M. Hopper too. With a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale, Hopper had a 44-year career in the development of computer language. As a computer scientist, Hopper developed the Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL) an invention to translate human instructions into computer source code. Hopper also coined the term “debugging” meaning to fix a computer. In 1991, Hopper was awarded the National Medal of Technology presented by President George Bush.
Oh, and did I mention that Hopper was a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral too? Her legacy is still honored today by the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. The world’s largest gathering of Women Technologists.
Here is a true American woman. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space (NBD) but what really makes Sally stand out among women scientists is her devotion to encouraging young women and girls to peruse a career in the fields of mathematics and science.
Sally Ride studied physics at Stanford University and was hired by NASA in 1977. With her time spent at NASA Sally Ride joined the Challenger shuttle mission in 1983 making her the first American woman in space. Sally worked as a mission specialist for approximately10 years. Sally left NASA in 1987 to teach and encourage women and girls to study science and mathematics. She started NASA’s EarthKAM project for middle school students, founded Sally Ride Science and wrote children books about space. The Astronaut Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame honor her life’s work.
Let me start off with this: Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Marie Curie in 1911 basically telling her to ignore the haters.
This is just one clip from Einstein’s letter to Marie: “I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance.”
So, as you can see, Marie Curie is a big deal. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Noble Prize, but her success didn’t stop there. Marie Curie was a two-time Noble Prize winner for her work in physics and chemistry making her the only woman to win the award in two different fields.
Marie Curie is known for discovering the elements radium and polonium. Her work led to the discovery of radioactivity. Although she had to fight sexism and public scorn (due to an unapproved relationship) fellow scientists like Einstein continually supported Marie Curie.
If you’re interested in medicine, Barbara McClintock is bound to be your next big role model. McClintock received a Ph.D. in botany then started her career as a cytogeneticist. Cytogenetics is a branch of genetics dedicated to the study structure and formation of a cell.
As a cytogeneticist, McClintock devoted her life to the development of maize cytogenetics (the study of how chromosomes change during reproduction.) McClintock is known for her discovery of the ability of genes to change places within the chromosome. This discovery can be coined the term “genetic transportation” or “jumping gene.” Her discovery was acknowledged when she won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983.
Laurel van der Wal
For all you Gossip Girl fans, this is the real van der we should be obsessed with. What dis Laurel van der Wal not do? Graduating high school at 15, Wal jumped right into the workforce.
Wal became a model, showgirl, casino shill, art instructor, deputy sheriff and railroad switch operator. But what Wal found to be her passion was her work as an aircraft mechanic during WWII. Wal worked on designing missile systems and specialized as a data analyst on the Nike missile. Projecting her career, Wal became the head of bioastronautics at Space Technology Laboratories in 1958.
Wal acquired a number of awards in her lifetime including Women of the Year in Science, Outstanding Woman Scientist and the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award.
(Born August 1918)
Katherine Johnson is an African-American space scientist and mathematician who paved the way in aeronautics and space programs. Her contribution was specifically important due to her work in calculating trajectories in the Space Race. To be specific, Johnson calculated the trajectory of Project Mercury sending Alan Shepard (the first American) into space!
Johnson also calculated the trajectory for the Apollo 11 flight to the moon in 1969. Johnson’s work was based out of NASA where she overcame gender and race barriers. But her ambition and astounding knowledge in the field of mathematics and science proved that she belonged.
Meet Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, to be exact. Lovelace was a mathematician and writer known to have helped Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, an early mechanical general-purpose computer. Lovelace is known for being the first computer programmer creating the first algorithm designed for a machine to carry out.
Lovelace’s “poetical” approach to science allowed her to be thought of as an analyst. By observing and taking, notes alongside Charles Babbage and Luigi Menabrea, Lovelace wrote her first computer program which was an important contribution to developers of early computers.