AUTHOR: Lietuvos Rytas
DATE: April 1, 2021
From Nasa’s Rocket Scientist to the Inventor of Wi-fi – Women Who Changed the History of Technology
On International Women’s Day 2021, one of Lithuania’s largest and most respected news portals, Lrytas.lt, put together a list of 8 women who made history in the technology world. Powerful women and exciting technologies is the part of the Venn diagram we Guildhawkers live in, so imagine our delight on discovering that our very own Jurga Zilinskiene, MBE had made the list! We wanted to share the news with as many people as possible, so we have translated the original Lithuanian article into English. Continue below to read the article in full. And here’s to strong women, and the immense contributions they have always made, and continue to make, to all our lives!
This year, the world celebrates the 110th International Women’s Day. The idea of celebrating this day every year on 8th March was conceived by women’s rights advocate Clara Zetkin, who proposed it at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. The following year, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland.
On this occasion, meet the outstanding women who have changed or continue to change the world of technology and inspire others to create, too. Arnoldas Lukošius, an expert at Tele2 Innovation Office, shares in the company’s press release the history of inventors, scientists and other women who have contributed to the world of technology.
1. Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), the First Programmer
An English mathematician and writer, Ada Lovelace was distinguished for her mathematical skills in her teens. This talent led her to collaborate with another British mathematician, Charles Babbage, otherwise known as the ‘father of computers’. A. Lovelace was particularly interested in Charles Babbage’s mechanical universal programmable calculator, the ‘Analytical Engine’. It became the first prototype of the modern computer.
A. Lovelace was the first to suggest that the Analytical Engine could be suitable for more than just simple computation. She developed a program to control the Analytical Engine, which is generally considered to be the world’s first computer program. It was in her honour that a programming language was named ‘Ada’ in 1979. Historically, the mathematician is considered to be one of the world’s first programmers.
2. Hedy Lamarr (1914–2000)
The actress who invented Wi-Fi. Raised in a Jewish family, the Austrian-born American actress appeared in 30 films in a career that spanned 28 years. But during World War II, the self-taught inventor couldn’t rest and enjoy the glory of cinema. At this time, radio-controlled naval torpedoes could easily be diverted off course when the enemy intercepted and disrupted radio signals. Thus, H. Lamarr took action to solve the problem.
Together with composer George Antheil, she synchronised a miniature player piano mechanism with radio signals. This led to the invention of the frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) method of transmitting radio signals to control torpedoes. This signal could not be jammed by adversaries.
In 1942, H. Lamarr and G. Antheil were granted a patent for a ‘secret communication system’. This frequency method was the first step in the development of modern Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth technologies, without which we could hardly imagine our daily lives.
3. NASA Rocket Scientist – Annie Easley (1933-2011)
An American computer scientist, mathematician and rocket scientist, she was one of the first black women to work for NASA. A. Easley was also a strong advocate of gender and racial diversity, later becoming NASA’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisor.
Her work on the Centaur spaceship project laid the technological foundations for future spacecraft, military and weather satellite launches. She also contributed to the flight of the Cassini probe to Saturn in 1997.
4. Mary Alen Wilkes (born in 1937)
She contributed to the first personal computer. Born in Chicago, M. A. Wilkes graduated college and majored in philosophy and theology, preparing to become a lawyer. But encouraged by those around her, she turned her career towards programming.
A computer programmer and logic designer, she is best known for her role in developing the software for the world’s first ‘personal computer’, LINC (Laboratory Instrument Computer).
5. Adele Goldberg (born in 1945) and Apple
The flagship Apple desktop environment would look very different today if it were not for Adele Goldberg’s contribution during her work at the Xero Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC). She was the only woman in the group to develop Smalltalk-80, one of the most popular early programming languages.
She presented Smalltalk-80 to Steve Jobs in 1979 who incorporated many of the concepts developed by her into the first Apple products. Many of the concepts developed by A. Goldberg and her team became the basis for the development of graphical user interfaces (GUIs), replacing previous command-line based systems.
6. Jurga Žilinskienė (born in 1976) awarded the Queen’s Award
One of the UK’s most influential businesswomen, self-taught programmer and founder of the translation company Guildhawk. In 2019, she became the first Lithuanian woman to win the prestigious Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the International Trade category.
J. Žilinskienė is also the founder of the Corporate Council for Women in Commerce, an organisation that brings together female entrepreneurs in London. She calls on female entrepreneurs around the world to be more active and united in promoting productivity, innovation and international trade.
7. Ruchi Sanghvi (born in 1982), Creator of the Facebook News Feed
The Indian computer engineer was the first female engineer hired by Facebook. She was one of the key pioneers in developing Facebook’s News Feed feature. R. Sanghvi’s other Facebook projects included creating a platform that allowed third-party developers and start-ups to build applications on the social network.
However, in 2011, R. Sanghvi left Facebook after receiving the Tech Fellow award, the best engineering leader award, and set up her own software product company, Cove. In 2012, she sold the company to Dropbox, where she later became Vice President of Operations. In 2016, she founded South Park Commons, a community of innovators and start-ups, and continues to inspire people to create and develop technology.
8. Young NASA Enthusiast Alyssa Carson (born in 2001)
Since the age of three, Alyssa Carson has persisted in her dream of going to Mars. She attended her first space camp when she was just seven years old. A. Carson is the only person in the world to have attended all three of NASA’s space camps. She was also the first person to complete the NASA Passport programme, visiting all 14 NASA visitor centres in nine states.
She was later selected as one of the seven ambassadors to represent the Mars One mission to establish a human colony on Mars in the 2030s. A. Carson also has her own brand – NASA Blueberry. The name comes from her nickname ‘Blueberry’ which she acquired at one of the camps where she once wore a dark blue suit. The brand is used both on her personal website and on social networks. A foundation with the same name has been set up to fulfil children’s dreams of space exploration.