Recognizing Trailblazers in Engineering: The Stories of 50 Amazing Women who Helped Shape the World

Recognizing Trailblazers in Engineering: The Stories of 50 Amazing Women who Helped Shape the World

As part of our tribute to International Women in Engineering Day, we embark on a journey to celebrate 50 trailblazing female engineers who have genuinely transformed the world in distinct ways that you might not have heard of.

  1. We begin with Hedy Lamarr. Far from just a Hollywood icon, Lamarr co-invented a frequency-hopping system during WWII that now underpins Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS.
  2. Next is Grace Hopper, a beacon in computer programming. She conceived one of the initial compiler-related tools and advocated for machine-independent programming languages.
  3. Enter Lillian Moller Gilbreth, an industrial engineer who broke new ground in ergonomics and efficiency studies and became the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
  4. We then honour Dame Stephanie Shirley, who, in the 1960s, founded a software company primarily staffed by women. She was a groundbreaking computer scientist, philanthropist, and advocate.
  5. Mary Jackson was a trailblazer in the Space Race and the first African-American woman engineer at NASA. A building at NASA was recently named in her honour.
  6. Émilie du Châtelet was a 1700s mathematician and physicist who made landmark contributions to kinetic energy theory.
  7. Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, a civil engineer who was the first American woman to secure a degree in this field and was a lifelong champion of women’s rights.
  8. Meet Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist who developed a propulsion system to prevent communications satellites from drifting out of their orbits.
  9. Dr Aprille Ericsson is the first African-American woman to receive a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University and a PhD in Engineering from NASA.
  10. Evelyn Boyd Granville was one of the first African American women to earn a PhD in mathematics. She crafted computer programs for the Apollo missions.
  11. Dr Erna Schneider Hoover transformed modern communication at Bell Labs by developing a computerized telephone switching method.
  12. Judith Resnik was an electrical engineer, software engineer, biomedical engineer, and NASA astronaut.
  13. Hertha Marks Ayrton, an engineer, mathematician, physicist, and inventor known for her work on electric arcs and ripples in sand and water.
  14. An electrical engineer and computer scientist, Donna Auguste co-founded Freshwater Software and established the Leave a Little Room Foundation to help impoverished communities.
  15. Edith Clarke was the first woman to be professionally employed as an electrical engineer in the United States and the country’s first woman professor of Electrical Engineering.
  16. Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space and later became the director of the Johnson Space Center.
  17. Beulah Louise Henry is an inventor with 49 patents and over 100 inventions. She was dubbed “Lady Edison” for her significant contributions to the field.
  18. Margaret Hamilton was the lead software engineer for NASA’s Apollo missions and coined “software engineering.”
  19. Radia Perlman is known as the “Mother of the Internet” for her significant contributions to network design and standardization, including the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP).
  20. Katherine Johnson was a NASA mathematician whose calculations were crucial to the success of U.S. manned spaceflights.
  21. Kalpana Chawla was an astronaut, aerospace engineer, and the first woman of Indian origin to go to space.
  22. Valentina Tereshkova is a retired astronaut who became the first woman to have flown in space.
  23. Elaine Chew is a renowned computer scientist whose research focuses on the computational analysis of music.
  24. Fei-Fei Li is a professor in the computer science department at Stanford University and a co-director of Stanford’s Human-Centered AI Institute.
  25. Mae Jemison is an engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she entered orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
  26. Barbara Liskov is a computer scientist who developed the Liskov substitution principle. She was also the first woman to be granted a doctorate in computer science in the United States.
  27. Frances Allen pioneered computer programming and was the first woman to win the Turing Award.
  28. Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist at DuPont who invented Kevlar, the high-strength material best known for its use in bulletproof vests.
  29. Mary Jackson was the first African American female engineer at NASA. Her story was highlighted in the movie “Hidden Figures.”
  30. Dorothy Vaughan was an African American mathematician and computer programmer who was a member of the team portrayed in “Hidden Figures” and the first black supervisor at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the agency that later became NASA.
  31. Ruzena Bajcsy is an engineer and computer scientist who significantly contributed to robotics and artificial intelligence.
  32. Donna Auguste is an engineer and entrepreneur who co-founded the company that created Newton, an early handheld device.
  33. Sophie Wilson is a British computer scientist and software engineer who designed the Acorn Micro-Computer and the instruction set of the ARM processor.
  34. Evelyn Boyd Granville is one of the first African American women to earn a PhD in mathematics. She worked on important NASA projects, including the Apollo program.
  35. Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood actress who also co-invented an early form of spread spectrum communication technology, a key to modern wireless communication.
  36. Radia Perlman is a software designer and network engineer often called the “Mother of the Internet”. She is most famous for inventing the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), a fundamental principle of network bridges.
  37. Marissa Mayer is a software engineer and business executive who was the CEO of Yahoo! from 2012 to 2017. She was also the first female engineer at Google.
  38. Elonka Dunin is a game developer and cryptographer known for her work in deciphering the Kryptos sculpture at the CIA Headquarters.
  39. Lisa Su is an electrical engineer and the CEO of AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). She is known for leading the company’s return to profitability and challenging Intel’s dominance in the CPU market.
  40. Fabiola Gianotti is an Italian particle physicist currently serving as Director-General of CERN. She led the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, which was integral in discovering the Higgs boson.
  41. Cynthia Breazeal is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she founded and directed the Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab. She is known for her work in robotics, specifically social robotics.
  42. Dame Steve Shirley is a British businesswoman, information technology pioneer and philanthropist. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1980 for “services to industry” and promoted Dame Commander (DBE) in the 2000 New Year Honours.
  43. Grace Murray Hopper was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. She pioneered computer programming and invented one of the first linkers. Hopper was the first to devise the theory of machine-independent programming languages, and the FLOW-MATIC programming language she created using this theory was later extended to create COBOL.
  44. Adele Goldberg is an American computer scientist who developed the programming language Smalltalk-80 and various concepts related to object-oriented programming while a researcher at Xerox PARC, the Palo Alto Research Center.
  45. Ruth Amonette was the first woman vice president at IBM, where she worked for four decades. Amonette was critical in the company’s personnel policies and training programs.
  46. Megan Smith is an American technologist, engineer, and former U.S. Chief Technology Officer under President Obama. She is known for her work at Google, leading new business development for nine years, and as a CEO and co-founder of shift7, a company working on tech-forward solutions for economic inclusion, social justice, and environmental sustainability.
  47. Mary Allen Wilkes is an American computer scientist known for her work on the LINC (Laboratory Instrument Computer), the first minicomputer and a forerunner to the personal computer. She was also the first person to use a home computer and the first developer of an operating system (LAP6) for a personal computer.
  48. Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was an American Catholic nun, educator and pioneer in computer science. She became the first woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science in the United States and helped develop BASIC, an early high-level programming language.
  49. Sophie Wilson is a British computer scientist. She designed the Acorn Micro-Computer, the first of a long line of computers sold by Acorn Computers Ltd, including its programming language BBC BASIC. She later developed the instruction set of the ARM processor, which is used in most 21st-century smartphones.
  50. Ruzena Bajcsy is a Slovak-American computer scientist who specializes in robotics. She is a pioneer in machine perception, robotics, and artificial intelligence, and she founded the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

These are just a few of the many women who have made significant contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Their work has laid the groundwork for many technological advancements we enjoy today.

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