Nine inspirational women in mathematics - International Women's Day
To celebrate International Women's Day, we've rounded up stories of some women mathematicians who were pioneers in their field.
Here are some of the stories which inspired us:
Katherine Johnson grew up with a fascination for numbers and a love for counting. At school she excelled at maths, starting high school four years early and graduating from college at 18 when most teenagers were just starting. She worked for NASA, using geometry to calculate the paths the spacecraft would need to take to go around the earth. Thanks to her maths, NASA was able to safely send men to the moon and back.
Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer. While working with Charles Babbage, who invented the world's first basic digital computer which he called the Analytical Engine, Ada discovered that computers could follow a sequence of instructions, or in other words, a program.
Mary loved maths but had to fight to be allowed to study and follow her dreams. At NASA, she earned the most senior title within the engineering department before taking a demotion into a position which allowed her to help other women achieve their career aspirations in the fields of science, engineering and mathematics.
We loved reading how Dorothy led the group of female "human computers" who did all the calculations for NASA when they were getting ready for the moon landings. Imagine how long those sums were!
Joan Clarke studied maths at university and despite earning a double first class degree in 1948, wasn't awarded it as Cambridge only awarded degrees to men at that time. Nevertheless, she was spotted by one of the supervisors of Bletchley Park, the secret code-breaking enterprise during the Second World War, and she started working there as a code breaker, or cryptologist. Her work undoubtedly saved many lives during the war, and because of the secrecy among cryptanalysts, the full extent of her accomplishments remains unknown.
Radia loved maths at school, and went onto become a computer programmer. Sometimes called the “mother of the internet”, she was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame for creating systems without which the internet as we know it simply would not function. We're proudest of her work as a pioneer of teaching young children computer programming.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Born and educated very close to us at Komodo HQ, Jocelyn is an astrophysicist who discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967. If you aren't familiar with Jocelyn's story, it's one worth checking out: https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/journeysofdiscovery-pulsars
Margaret coined the term "software engineering." leading the MIT team who developed the software for the Apollo space program. Although her character doesn't appear in any of the Apollo movies, her own work on the programme introduced an error recognition to the software without which, the Eagle might never have landed.
Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician who was the first woman to be awarded the Field's Medal, one of the highest honours a mathematician can achieve. She was renowned for having said: "you have to spend some energy and effort to see the beauty of math," which is something we would stand by here at Komodo!
Have you got any superwomen in maths to add to our list? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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