By Sandra Quinn

Today is International Women’s Day and we are dedicating this week’s blog to the contribution of women to the world of technology, science and engineering.

You may not know her name, but you will certainly know the impact she has made on the world – Ada Lovelace.

Ada was the first person to publish an algorithm, which was intended for use on the first computer, the Analytical Engine created by Charles Babbage. This brave move to publish the world’s first algorithm in 1843 affords her the coveted title of being the world’s first computer programmer.

For her time, the things she was interested in and the education she received was highly unusual and certainly unprecedented. Upon her mother’s insistence, she was taught science and maths by her tutors and she had a talent for languages and numbers.

Role models and their importance are worth noting and it is clear that Ada’s mother was a dedicated and driven woman, while one of Ada’s tutors was also Mary Somerville, a Scottish astronomer and mathematician who was one of the first women to be admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society.

She paved the way for the women of the future, but sadly her contribution to the world of science, technology and engineering was not recognised during her lifetime.

Her work was not discovered for what it really was and for its true value until the 1950’s and she has since received many posthumous honours for her work, while in 1980 the American Department of Defence named a newly developed computer language ‘Ada’ after her.

Looking back through the pages of the history books, we can see many female role models who paved the way for women in science, technology and engineering today.

Ana Roqué de Duprey was born in Puerto Rico in 1853 and at the age of 13 she started her own school from her home and went on to develop her passions for astronomy and education and founded a number of girls-only schools.

Edith Clarke became the first professionally employed female electrical engineer in America in 1922. She broke the mould for women in STEM and was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2015. Through her talent for complicated mathematical equations, she acted as a human computer in many ways before computers and calculators took over a lot of those jobs.

In 1993, Dr Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space during a nine-day mission on the space shuttle Discovery. She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit.

Katherine Johnson played a huge role in calculating key trajectories in the Space Race, working out the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, as well as for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper developed computer languages written in English, rather than in mathematical notation – most notably COBOL, which is still used today and she is annually honoured through the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference.

This International Women’s Day, think about these women, their contributions to their fields of excellence and where we would be today without all that they achieved.  

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