It’s a sad fact that women are among a group of people who are often ignored throughout history. Sometimes, they aren’t given credit where credit was due; other times, their contributions to the world of technology and education have simply been ignored. Now, more than ever, it’s important to teach young people about the valuable efforts women have made over the past century in various fields, including science and technology, so that they will be inspired to do their own work in those areas.
One of the wonderful things about these women is that some of them went on to be known for very different successes, such as actress Hedy Lamarr. The Hollywood starlet helped to invent frequency hopping on radio channels. Alongside her partner, George Antheil, Hedy worked on the technology initially for the Navy and received a patent for it. Today, the core idea of frequency hopping is applied to Bluetooth technology. And while many people might wonder why a Hollywood actress was inventing things, her son says it’s because it was a way to use her creative mind for something outside of memorizing lines. She became disillusioned with the glitz and glamour of show business and wanted something more.
“The first question always is, ‘What? A Hollywood star? What was she doing inventing some piece of electrical engineering’” says Richard Rhodes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who penned a biography on Lamarr. “She set aside one room in her home, had a drafting table installed with the proper lighting, and the proper tools – had a whole wall in the room of engineering reference books.”
It’s hard to imagine that people who lived nearly two hundred years ago were toying with the ideas of computers, but that’s exactly what one inventor was doing in England in 1843. Charles Babbage wanted to create a machine for mathematics, and he enlisted the help of noblewoman Ada Lovelace. Lovelace added her own notes to Babbage’s formula and ended up creating what many believe was the first computer algorithm. Funnily enough, Lovelace was something of a celebrity in her own right; she was the daughter of noted English poet Lord Byron.
Malala Yousafzai is one of the more recent women to emerge as a role model for girls all over the world. After defying the Taliban’s orders and speaking out on behalf of girls who wanted an education, Yousafzai was shot in the head. She survived the vicious attack, however, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Today she continues to champion the right for girls and women to earn an education. She’s also a children’s rights activist.
It’s especially important for women of different ethnicities to be recognized for their work in the fields of science and mathematics. Dr. Shirley Jackson is a theoretical physicist and was the first African American woman to graduate with a PH.D. from MIT. Jackson’s work has enabled the inventions of touch tone telephones, fiber optic cables, and the technology for call waiting.
Women have been highly influential in the world of education, art, and technology; there’s even a museum dedicated to the women who have given us so many wonderful works of art over the years. Check out the National Museum of Women in the Arts to find out more about these groundbreaking females.