Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Future Is Female

Women in STEM Who Changed the World

Who are the Women in STEM who changed the world through science, technology, engineering and mathematics?   Well, Here’s a list of amazing women in STEM who changed the world and a couple of bad ass women still putting in the work to encourage young women to pursue a career in a STEM Field: 

Katherine Johnson, NASA Space Scientist
Katherine Johnson helped pave the way for women to pursue careers in mathematics and technology. Katherine’s accomplishments are astounding, as was her graceful self-assurance that she belonged wherever her abilities carried her.

She was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia State College in 1937 with a BS degree in Mathmetics and French.  Being handpicked to be one of three black students to integrate West Virginia’s graduate schools is something that many people would consider one of their life’s most notable moments, but it’s just one of several breakthroughs that have marked Katherine Johnson’s long and remarkable life.  Her intense curiosity and brilliance with numbers vaulted her ahead several grades in school. By thirteen, she was attending the high school on the campus of historically black West Virginia State College. At eighteen, she enrolled in the college itself, where she made quick work of the school’s math curriculum and found a mentor in math professor W. W. Schieffelin Claytor, the third African American to earn a PhD in Mathematics. Katherine graduated with highest honors in 1937 and took a job teaching at a black public school in Virginia.

When West Virginia decided to quietly integrate its graduate schools in 1939, West Virginia State’s president Dr. John W. Davis selected Katherine and two male students as the first black students to be offered spots at the state’s flagship school, West Virginia University. Katherine left her teaching job, and enrolled in the graduate math program. At the end of the first session, however, she decided to leave school to start a family with her husband.  She returned to teaching when her three daughters got older, but it wasn’t until 1952 that a relative told her about open positions at the all-black West Area Computing section at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) Langley laboratory, headed by fellow West Virginian Dorothy Vaughan. Katherine and her husband, James Goble, decided to move the family to Newport News to pursue the opportunity, and Katherine began work at Langley in the summer of 1953. Just two weeks into Katherine’s tenure in the office, Dorothy Vaughan assigned her to a project in the Maneuver Loads Branch of the Flight Research Division, and Katherine’s temporary position soon became permanent. She spent the next four years analyzing data from flight test, and worked on the investigation of a plane crash caused by wake turbulence. As she was wrapping up this work her husband died of cancer in December 1956.

The 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik changed history—and Katherine Johnson’s life. In 1957, Katherine provided some of the math for the 1958 document Notes on Space Technology, a compendium of a series of 1958 lectures given by engineers in the Flight Research Division and the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division (PARD). Engineers from those groups formed the core of the Space Task Group, the NACA’s first official foray into space travel, and Katherine, who had worked with many of them since coming to Langley, “came along with the program” as the NACA became NASA later that year. She did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s May 1961 mission Freedom 7, America’s first human spaceflight. In 1960, she and engineer Ted Skopinski coauthored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position, a report laying out the equations describing an orbital spaceflight in which the landing position of the spacecraft is specified. It was the first time a woman in the Flight Research Division had received credit as an author of a research report.

In 1962, as NASA prepared for the orbital mission of John Glenn, Katherine Johnson was called upon to do the work that she would become most known for. The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, DC, Cape Canaveral, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission, from blast off to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to “get the girl”—Katherine Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine.  “If she says they’re good,’” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, “then I’m ready to go.” Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.

When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, Katherine Johnson talks about the calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. She also worked on the Space Shuttle and the Earth Resources Satellite, and authored or coauthored 26 research reports. She retired in 1986, after thirty-three years at Langley. “I loved going to work every single day,” she says. In 2015, at age 97, Katherine Johnson added another extraordinary achievement to her long list: President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor


Augusta Ada King (née Byron), Countess of Lovelace and Mathematician
Augusta was born in December 1815 and was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. All of Byron's other children were born out of wedlock.  Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later. He commemorated the parting in a poem that begins, "Is thy face like thy mother's my fair child! ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?". He died of disease in the Greek War of Independence when Ada was eight years old. Her mother remained bitter and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing her father's perceived insanity. Ada’s mother prioritized her mathematical education, hoping to steer Ada away from the ‘mad, bad and dangerous‘ poetic tendencies of her father, Lord Byron.

Despite this, Ada remained interested in Byron. Upon her eventual death, she was buried next to him at her request. Although often ill in her childhood, Ada pursued her studies assiduously. She married William King in 1835. King was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838, Ada thereby becoming Countess of Lovelace. Her educational and social exploits brought her into contact with scientists such as Andrew Crosse, Charles Babbage, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Michael Faraday and the author Charles Dickens, contacts which she used to further her education. Ada described her approach as "poetical science"[ and herself as an "Analyst and Metaphysician".

When she was a teenager, her mathematical talents led her to a long working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, who is known as "the father of computers". She was in particular interested in Babbage's work on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace first met him in June 1833, through their mutual friend, and her private tutor, Mary Somerville.

Chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine, she was the first to recognize that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is sometimes regarded as the first to recognize the full potential of a "computing machine" and one of the first computer programmers.

Between 1842 and 1843, Ada translated an article by Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea on the calculating engine, supplementing it with an elaborate set of notes, simply called Notes. These notes contain what many consider to be the first computer program—that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. Other historians reject this perspective and point out that Babbage's personal notes from the years 1836/1837 contain the first programs for the engine.  Lovelace's notes are important in the early history of computers. She also developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mindset of "poetical science" led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.

She died of uterine cancer in 1852 at the age of 36.


Radia Perlman, Internet Pioneer
Radia Perlman disapproves when people call her The Mother of the Internet. But as an early computer scientist and student of MIT in the 60’s she became an internet pioneer, developing the algorithm behind the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), an innovation that made today’s Internet possible. She also invented TRILL to correct limitations of STP. A wildly creative thinker, Dr. Perlman even developed a child-friendly programming language used by children as young as 3. She authored a textbook on networking and network security, and holds more than 100 issued patents.


Rebecca Cole, MD
Rebecca Cole was an American physician, organization founder and social reformer. In 1867, she became the second African-American woman to become a doctor in the United States after Rebecca Lee Crumpler's achievement three years earlier. For 50 years, she worked tirelessly as a doctor and public health educator while raising 5 kids. She called people on dangerous misinformation, using her own data to back her opinions up. This woman’s legacy is huge. Her peers said her cheerful optimism created an atmosphere of sunshine that made everyone happy.

She graduated from medical school in 1867 and became a public health advocate, physician and hygiene reformer in the US. An evidence-based researcher, she took issue with the biased data used to conclude that a lack of hygiene was the cause of inner city families’ high death rate from consumption. Although few records remain, we know she opened the Women’s Directory Center with Charlotte Abbey, providing medical and legal services to destitute women, was appointed Superintendent of a Home and was the esteemed colleague of the first US-educated female doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell.

Cole was born in Philadelphia on March 16, 1846; the second of five children and throughout her life would overcome racial and gender barriers to medical education by training in all-female institutions run by women who had been part of the first generation of female physicians graduating mid-century. Cole attended high school at the Institute for Colored Youth,where she completed a rigorous curriculum that included Latin, Greek, and mathematics and later graduating in 1863. She then went on to graduate from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867, under the supervision of Ann Preston; the first woman dean of the school. The Women’s Medical College was founded by Quaker abolitionists and temperance reformers in 1850 under the name of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and was the world’s first medical school for women. Her graduate medical thesis was titled The Eye and Its Appendages.  Rebecca's roommates in her senior year were Odelia Blinn and Martha E. Hutchings. Nearly thirty years later Dr. Blinn wrote an article about how crossing the 'color line' in Philadelphia nearly derailed Rebecca's studies at the college and her plans for a medical career.

After her schooling, Cole interned at Elizabeth Blackwell's New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. In New York, Cole was assigned the task of going into tenements to teach prenatal care and hygiene to women. Cole was a pioneer in providing these impoverished women and children access to medical care.  Cole went on to practice in South Carolina, then returned to Philadelphia, and in 1873 opened a Women's Directory Center with Charlotte Abbey that provided medical and legal services to destitute women and children. In January 1899, she was appointed superintendent of a home, run by the Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington, D.C.. The annual report for that year stated that she possessed "all the qualities essential to such a position-ability, energy, experience, tact." A subsequent report noted that:
Dr. Cole herself has more than fulfilled the expectations of her friends. With a clear and comprehensive view of her whole field of action, she has carried out her plans with the good sense and vigor which are a part of her character, while her cheerful optimism, her determination to see the best in every situation and in every individual, have created around her an atmosphere of sunshine that adds to the happiness and well being of every member of the large family.
Although Cole practiced medicine for fifty years, few records survive, and no photos of her have survived. She died in 1922 and is buried at Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania. 
In 2015, Cole was chosen as an Innovators Walk of Fame honoree by the University City Science Center, Philadelphia, PA.


Joan Clarke, Code Breaker & Cryptanalyst
Joan Clarke was born in 1917 and gained a First in mathematics from Cambridge but was denied a Full Degree as Cambridge did not award them to women at the time. She was the only woman to work in the nerve center of the quest to crack German Enigma ciphers. Because of the secrecy that still surrounds events at Bletchley Park, the full extent of Clarke’s achievements and those of her colleagues Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Ruth Briggs, remains unknown.


Susan Kare, Iconographer
We don’t often think about the people who make our screen experiences work so well. But there is one iconic (ahem) inspirational designer in technology. Susan Kare is a digital designer’s designer. If you have used the fonts Chicago, Geneva or Monaco, you have benefited from Kare’s excellent eye. Her most well known icons include the Macintosh trash can, the scissors, the pointing “paste” hand, and the formatting paintbrush. What a legacy.

“She is a pioneering and influential computer iconographer. Since 1983, Kare has designed thousands of icons for the world’s leading software companies. Utilizing a minimalist grid of pixels and constructed with mosaic-like precision, her icons communicate their function immediately and memorably, with wit and style,” wrote the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

February 5, 1954) is an artist and graphic designer best known for her interface elements and typeface contributions to the first Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. She was also Creative Director (and one of the original employees) at NeXT, the company formed by Steve Jobs after he left Apple in 1985 and has since contributed at Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, and Pinterest. She has worked for Microsoft, IBM, Pinterest and Facebook.

Kare was born in Ithaca, New York, and is the sister of aerospace engineer Jordin Kare.  In high school she worked at a museum for a designer, Harry Loucks, who introduced her to typography and graphic design. She graduated from Harriton High School in 1971, graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Art from Mount Holyoke College in 1975, and received a Ph.D. from New York University in 1978. She next moved to San Francisco and worked for the Fine Arts Museums. 

Kare joined Apple Computer after receiving a call from high school friend Andy Hertzfeld in the early 1980s.  A member of the original Apple Macintosh design team, she worked at Apple starting in 1982 (Badge #3978). Kare was originally hired into the Macintosh software group to design user interface graphics and fonts; her business cards read "HI Macintosh Artist". Later, she was a Creative Director in Apple Creative Services working for the Director of that organization, Tom Suiter.
She is the designer of many typefaces, icons, and original marketing material for the original Macintosh operating system. Descendants of her groundbreaking work can still be seen in many computer graphics tools and accessories, especially icons such as the Lasso, the Grabber, and the Paint Bucket. These designs created the first visual language for Apple's new point-and-click computing.  A presentation at the Layers Design Conference in San Francisco revealed that the Command icon on Apple keyboards was originally a symbol used to denote notable and interesting features at Swedish Campgrounds.

Kare was an early pioneer of pixel art. Her most recognizable works from her time with Apple are the Chicago typeface (the most prominent user-interface typeface seen in classic Mac OS interfaces from System 1 in 1984, to Mac OS 9 in 1999, as well as the typeface used in the first four generations of the Apple iPod interface); the Geneva typeface; the original monospace Monaco typeface; "Clarus the Dogcow"; the "Happy Mac" icon (the smiling computer that welcomed Mac users when starting their machines), and the Command key symbol on Apple keyboards.

Her icons drew from many sources such as art history, wacky gadgets, and forgotten hieroglyphics. On the Mac her concept for the command symbol was taken from the Saint Hannes cross, which was a symbol for a "place of interest."

After leaving Apple, Kare joined NeXT as the 10th employee and then became a designer, working with clients such as Microsoft and IBM. Her projects for Microsoft included the card deck for Windows 3.0's solitaire game, which taught many to use a mouse to drag and drop objects on a screen. She also designed numerous other icons and design elements for Windows 3.0.  Many of her icons, such as those for Notepad and various Control Panels, remained essentially unchanged by Microsoft until Windows XP. For IBM, she produced icons and design elements for the ill-fated OS/2; for Eazel she contributed iconography to the Nautilus file manager.  In 2003, she became a member of the advisory board of Glam Media (now Mode Media).

Between 2006 and 2010, she produced icons for the "Gifts" feature of Facebook. Initially, profits from gift sales were donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. After Valentine's Day 2007, the gift selection was modified to include new and limited edition gifts that did not necessarily pertain to Valentine's Day. One of the gift icons, titled "Big Kiss" is also featured in some versions of Mac OS X as a user account picture.

In 2007, she designed the identity, icons and website for Chumby Industries, Inc.,  as well as the interface for their Internet-enabled alarm clock.  Since 2008, The Museum of Modern Art store in New York City has carried stationery and notebooks featuring her designs. In 2015 MoMA also acquired her notebooks of sketches that led to the early Mac icons.

In August 2012, she was called as an expert witness by Apple in the company's patent-infringement trial against industry competitor Samsung (see Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co.),  In 2015, Kare was hired by Pinterest as a product design lead. As of 2010, she heads a digital design practice in San Francisco and sells limited-edition, signed fine-art prints. She currently uses Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to make her designs and logos. 


Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, Inventor and Computer Scientist
An American computer scientist, and a Rear Admiral in the US Navy, Grace Hopper invented the first programming language to use english words. She is seen as a key inventor of the language COBOL (an acronym for COmmonBusiness-OrientedLanguage) a widely used programming language. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar in 1928 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics and earned her master’s degree at Yale University in 1930. Even though she was only 105 pounds, well under the minimum weight for joining the navy, she got an exemption and enlisted in WWII. After the war, still working for the navy, her associates discovered a moth mucking up the Mark II Computer. It was removed and she coined the term “debugging”. She then joined the UNIVAC team where she pioneered using computers for more than arithmetic. By 1952 she had invented an operational compiler, the first she knew of.  Some of Admiral Hoppers famous quotes include:
  • “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”
  • “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

Florence Nightingale, Social Reformer and Statistician
Florence Nightingale gained fame as “the Lady with the Lamp” for her heroic nursing in the Crimean War. There, she was credited for reducing the death rate from 42% to 2%. She was a visionary designer of hospital systems and pioneered the improvement of sanitation in working-class homes. She is known as the inventor of modern nursing. Her students and trainees became matrons at many hospitals and opened nursing schools of their own. She had a genius for presenting statistical data in graphic form. She developed a proportional pie chart still used today – see the Diagram of the Causes of Mortality. She used these skills to champion better health care at home and abroad.


Adriana Ocampo, Planetary Geologist
Adriana Ocampo is a planetary geologist and the Science Program Manager at NASA Headquarters.
Dr. Ocampo, a Columbian-born scientist, has worked on a number of NASA planetary science projects, including the Juno mission to Jupiter and the New Horizons mission to Pluto. Born in 1955, Dr. Ocampo was named one of the 50 Most Important Women in Science.


Irene Au, Human Computer Interaction Designer
Irene Au created her own program of study in human-computer interaction. She built exceptional design teams for Google and Yahoo before joining Khosla Ventures as an Operating Partner.


Roberta Bondar, Astronaut Neurologist
Canada’s first female astronaut and the world’s first astronaut-neurologist. Roberta Bondar has received many honours including the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the NASA Space Medal, over 22 honorary degrees, and induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. After her astronaut career she spent the next decade leading an international research team at NASA studying the effects on astronauts of spaceflight and re-adaptation back to Earth’s gravity.


Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM
Ginni Rometty CEO IBM. An early compsci graduate in the 70’s, Rometty joined IBM as a systems engineer. When she became SVP Marketing & Strategy in 2009, she led IBM into cloud computing, analytics, and the commercialization of IBM Watson. She has been IBM’s CEO since 2012.


Barbara McClintock, Geneticist
Barbara McClintock is the only woman to have received, by herself, a Nobel Prize for Medicine. She won the Nobel in 1983 for work that began with her discovery 40 years earlier, that genetic material is not fixed but instead is fluid. James Watson credited her genetic insights as part of his discovery of DNA. In her biography, A Feeling for the Organism, she connected new scientific and feminist perspectives. Her students adopted her mindset that science is open ended and unresolved. Dr. McClintock felt it was important to put in the caveat “this is what we know” in scientific assertions, implicitly reminding us that so much is not yet known.


Alba Colon is the NASCAR program manager at General Motors. Colon grew up Puerto Rico dreaming of being an astronaut.  While getting her mechanical engineering degree she joined the Society of Automotive Engineers, fell in love with cars and has been an unstoppable force in car racing ever since. She joined GM straight out of college and worked her way up to lead engineer for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Team Chevrolet. In that job she’s helped Chevy earn 160 race wins, six driver’s championships, eight Manufacturers’ Cup awards, among other accolades. She’s also worked as the lead engineer for drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick.


Aprille Ericsson-Jackson is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology before attending graduate school at Howard University. She was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University and the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. As she continues her career at NASA, Dr. Ericsson-Jackson is also committed to educating and inspiring more African-American students to pursue careers in STEM. 


Maryam Mirzakhani is helping us understand the complex mathematical relationships that govern
twisting and stretching surfaces. In 2014, Maryam Mirzakhani was one of only four people to receive a Fields Medal, which is regarded as the most prestigious award in mathematics since there is no Nobel Prize for math. She’s also the first woman to ever receive the award. She studies shapes and surfaces in several fields of abstract mathematics including hyperbolic geometry. Mirzakhani tackles important questions in these fields — like “how many simple closed geodesics shorter than some given length can there be on a particular Riemann surface” — by taking novel approaches to the problems that other mathematicians have said is nothing short of “truly spectacular.”


Regina Agyare is a social entrepreneur who is finding new ways to harness technology to promote social change in West Africa. Agyare graduated from Ghana’s Ashesi University in 2005 as one of the top software developers in her class with a degree in Computer Science.  After graduation, Regina was hired by a prestigious international bank in Accra as the first and only woman in the IT department. After six years in the banking/technology industry, Agyare decided to follow her passion and founded her own social start-up called Soronko Solutions, which creates and manages ventures that apply technology to promote social development.  Among the projects that Agyare has launched at Soronko include one that introduced deaf girls to technology at the State Deaf School in Ghana – including apps that help promote communication in a society where use of sign language is limited.  Agyare has led Soronko Solutions to develop a number of applications for disabled persons, as well as to promote interest in technology among girls and women.

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