Ada Lovelace. Hedy Lamarr. Katharine Burr Blodgett.
The likelihood that you have heard of these women may be quite slim and yet they have had a direct impact on most of our lives. Each of them has contributed to the development of modern technology, whether that be through their ideas or inventions.
Ada Lovelace, daughter of the famed poet Lord Byron, was a mathematician. She worked alongside Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine. She made her own notes, alongside her translations, on codes that could be created for the device itself to handle letters and symbols along with numbers. As well as this, her notes also discussed a method in which the device could repeat a series of instructions. This process is now known as looping which is still used in computers today. Because of this work, she is regarded by many as the first computer programmer.
Hedy Lamarr was an actress during Hollywood’s golden age but she was also an inventor. Together with George Antheil, she worked on communication technology and as a result, discovered frequency hopping across spectrums. Her work has formed the basis of WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.
Katharine Burr Blodgett was one of the first women to achieve a PhD in physics from the University of Cambridge. She worked with film and found a way to use single-molecule thick coatings of barium to increase the amount of light passing through glass. She also produced a non-reflective coating for eyeglasses and improved lenses used in cinematography.
These women have all made significant contributions to science and engineering and they are not alone. They are just a small number of the countless numbers of women (from varying backgrounds) that have helped to shape the world we live in.
The disparity between men and women in the world of engineering is still prevalent and it’s is time that we shed light on the hidden figures who have contributed to the advancement of human technology.
This blog post marks the start of a monthly series in which we shine a light on the hidden figures of engineering with each blog dedicating itself to spreading awareness of the past, and present, contributions that women have made to engineering.