Comet showers, codebreakers and Madame X
Did you know Florence Nightingale created a technique to fight infections in hospitals two hundred years ago? Or that, after the US Civil War ended in 1865, the government hired war widows as 'human computers'? From calculating comet showers to cracking Japanese naval codes and more, here are the historic women that shaped today's tech. You might be surprised.
In the beginning, there were human computers
We didn't always have snazzy Macbook Pros and Google Pixels. Way back, in 1613 to be exact, the word 'computer' was coined which meant 'those who compute,' or a person who calculates information. These sacred folk were champions of sums and all that came with it, like Maria Mitchell, an astrologist who plotted Venus' movements for the American Nautical Almanac (a source of celestial navigation). Most of the human computers, working until the 1960s, were women.But in a world of driverless cars and sex robots, it seems contributions like Maria's, and many other women like her, go unnoticed by the next generation of female cyber talent. A big claim? Not according to a recent report by PwC, in which 78 percent of students can't name any famous woman working in tech.
Setting the scene for today’s tech gender gap
It's no secret: tech isn't the easiest industry for women to break into. Women account for 5 percent of leadership positions in the tech sector, while only 10 percent of women working in a technology role work in a female-majority team, compared to 48 percent working in a male-majority team.But things are changing. According to Kaspersky's recent Women in Tech report, 56 percent say more women are working in IT than two years ago. Plus, one in two agree that remote working is improving gender equality. Win.
The historical women in computing we should all know about
History is brimming with influential women who pioneered new ways to calculate and compute. During International Women's Day, as more young women contemplate a career in tech, we celebrate the women who helped make computing history.
The Bletchley Park codebreakers – cracking codes and winning wars
Many historians see Alan Turing's work cracking the Nazi 'Enigma' code as critical to ending World War II. You may not know that 75 percent of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park (the institution Turing worked at) supporting him were women. The film 'The Imitation Game' is a Hollywood interpretation. But what's their real story?
Hedy Lamarr averts the Cuban Missile Crisis
1940s Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr co-invented a frequency hopping method that could control torpedoes remotely, and the signal couldn't be tracked or jammed. By the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the design was installed on Navy ships. The technology later made its way into everyday tech like Bluetooth and Wifi.
Grace Hopper invents new ways to code
Grace Hopper was the first person to create a compiler for a programming language. She's widely miscredited with coining the term 'bug' when a moth caused her computer to malfunction, though she did develop COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) and devised new symbolic ways to write computer code.
Ada Lovelace – the world’s first computer programmer
1843. Britain builds the Houses of Parliament, Charles Dickens publishes 'A Christmas Carol' and Ada Lovelace writes history's first computer program. The annual Ada Lovelace Day celebrates women's achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and encourages girls and young women to follow in her path. Here's her story, in Jedi format.
Margaret Hamilton – 1969: A space odyssey
Hundreds of engineers, pilots and scientists were behind the 1969 moon landing. But in truth, it wouldn't have happened without Margaret Hamilton. Why? Because she programmed Apollo's onboard flight software.
Joan Ball – computer love in the swinging sixties
Long before apps like Bumble and Tinder got everyone swiping right for love, in 1964, Joan Ball set up the world's first computer-based matchmaking program, St. James Computer Dating Service. She sent surveys to people asking what they were looking for in a partner; then, she ran those through a computer program to find matches before sending the names and addresses to those who'd been paired. Imagine that?
Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler – Googling before Google began
As the leader of the Network Information Centre, supported by her mostly female team, Elizabeth Feinler, also known as 'Jake,' created ARPANET's directory. This was effectively the first internet directory in 1969, decades before we all started to Google. What had initially been a centralized location for web domains quickly transformed into a way of classifying and discovering the worldwide web.
Susan Kare - making Apple iconic
When you see the iconic trash symbol on your Apple Mac, thank Susan Kare. She worked with Steve Jobs to design the original icons, making home computers user-friendly.
Want more inspiring stories on how today's women in tech are progressing? Visit Kaspersky's Empower Women.