Alycia Hibbert

It is easy for society to recognize the names of men like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Elon Musk for their contribution to modern day technology. Yet, few can really name the women who have made revolutionary contributions to the technological world. This week Perdeby looks at the women who were science and technology game changers.

 

Grace Hopper

Hopper, a computer scientist and US Navy rear admiral, developed one of the world’s first compilers and compiler-based programming languages. She is famously connected with the Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL), a high-level programme language that was based on her ideas. She was awarded forty honorary degrees throughout her lifetime. Without Hopper, the basics of many computer languages would not exist.

 

Dr Erna Schneider Hoover  

Dr Hoover is notable for inventing a telephony substituting computer program that kept phones operating under strenuous loads which many say revolutionized the modern communication industry. Her patent for this technology in 1971 was amid one of the first software patents ever issued. Dr Hoover is clearly one of the pioneers in the field of computer technology.

 

Dr Shirley Ann Jackson

Dr Jackson is the first African-American woman to get a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which she earned, in theoretical physics. Her telecommunications research at Bell Laboratories led to the invention of the portable fax, the touch-tone telephone, solar cells, fibre optic cables and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting. From 2014 to 2018, while at the age of 73, she also served as the co-chair to the US President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

 

Dr Flossie Wong-Staal

Dr Wong-Staal was a part of the team that uncovered the human immunodeficiency virus – known as HIV, in the wake of 1980 AIDS epidemic. She became the first person to clone the virus, which allowed the gene mapping of and blood screening for HIV and its link to AIDS. She is currently known as one of the most esteemed authorities on retroviruses and immunodeficiencies.

 

Katherine Johnson

Johnson is a mathematician who made substantial contributions to aeronautics and space programs at NASA. With the leadership of Johnson physicists, engineers, and mathematicians calculated the flight trajectories, launch windows and emergency back-up return paths for Project Mercury – the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon. She revolutionized not only the technological advancements of space – but also the role of women of colour in technology. The move Hidden Figures follows part of her life story.

 

Image: Elmarie Kruger