To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March 2021, we wanted to honour some inspirational women in STEM. Not only have their achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths changed the world, their work is often not as well-known as it’s historically been downplayed. However, these women have all achieved great things and are excellent role models and a great inspiration to children. Here’s just some of the famous females you should know about.
Grace Hopper - Computer Scientist and Admiral
Grace Hopper became one of the first women to earn a PhD in mathematics from Yale University. During World War II she joined the US Naval Reserves and set to work programming Mark I, the first ever computer. She realised that the development and refinement of programming languages would be essential for computers to be used for business and non-scientific applications. From here, Grace lead the team that created the first compiler, which led to the creation of COBOL, a programming language that accounted for 70 percent of actively used code in the year 2000. In fact, her contributions to the field of computer science are still noticed today.
Marie Curie - Physicist and Chemist
Marie Curie is one of the most famous female scientists in history. Known for her ground-breaking research in radioactivity, together with her husband Pierre Curie, she discovered two new elements in 1898: polonium and radium. Her other achievements include developing the theory of radioactivity (a term that Marie herself coined), creating techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and building mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals during World War I. She was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, as well as the first person and only woman to win twice!
Florence Nightingale - Social Reformer and Statistician
Florence Nightingale gained fame as ‘the Lady with the Lamp’ for her heroic nursing in the Crimean War. In fact, she was credited for reducing the death rate from 42% to 2%! She was also a visionary designer of hospital systems and established the improvement of sanitation in working-class homes - some even refer to her as the inventor of modern nursing. Her students and trainees also went on to do great work too, most becoming matrons at hospitals, then going on to open nursing schools of their own. As well as her nursing work, she was a genius for presenting statistical data in graph form and even developed a pie chart still used today!
Gladys West - Mathematician
Gladys West is the woman who pioneered GPS and made finding places much easier! As one of the very few women actually hired in the advanced technical department, she worked on the initial groundwork of GPS technology by formulating advanced algorithms that helped make an extremely accurate model of Earth. This model is the foundation of GPS, a technology that has revolutionised military, transport and cellular technology.
For more information on International Women’s Day and ways to get involved, check out their website here.