The world as we know it would not be where it is now without innovations from the minds of geniuses that came before us. Brilliant minds have invented technologies that changed and molded the way we interacted with the world and one another. Throughout history, women have always been overlooked and under-appreciated, but little do the rest of us know that some of the inventions that disrupted industries came from innovative women. Through their incredible accomplishments they changed the world. Yet didn’t get the recognition they deserved. We will try to fix this by introducing you to 5 amazing women.
1 - Ada Lovelace & the Computer Algorithm
Charles Babbage, also known as the father of the modern computer, once had a student whose name was Ada Lovelace, the woman who wrote the world's first computer algorithm. While translating the notes of her professor for his theoretical invention, the analytical engine, Lovelace added her own footnotes, which is credited to be the earliest complete computer program. Lovelace's program is still contested up to this day as not everyone deems it as a "program," but Two-Bit history notes that it was designed to calculate the Bernoulli number. She discovered how operations could be organized into groups that could be repeated, resulting in a loop. At the time, she realized how it was important to track the state of the variables as they changed, introducing a notation to demonstrate those specific changes. The method may be archaic now, but it resembles much of how software is written today.
2 - Florence Parpart & the Electric Refrigerator
Before Florence Parpart invented the electric refrigerator, the world was still using iceboxes to chill and freeze their food. Very little is known about her other than census records and patent applications. In 1914, she won a second patent for the modern refrigerator, which she invented with the help of her then-fiancé who was skilled in electrical circuitry. An entrepreneur through and through, Parpart went on to market and sell her refrigerators to various companies. She even attended multiple trade shows, developed advertising campaigns, and managed production operations for the refrigerators. And now, her invention is found in most kitchens across the globe.
3 - Hedy Lamarr & the Wireless Fidelity of Wi-Fi
Who would have thought that the technology we use to connect to the internet came from the mind of a Hollywood star? Yes, that's right—Hedy Lamarr, known in the 1930s and 1940s for her smoldering performances on the silver screen, also happens to be the ingenious inventor who discovered "frequency hopping," which would eventually blossom into some of today's most widely used technology, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and mobile phones. Lamarr made her breakthrough during World War II, when she was attempting to come up with a device that would block enemy ships from jamming torpedo guidance signals. It's unclear what prompted the idea, but her partner George Antheil confirmed that it was Lamarr's own design, from which he based a practical model. They both found a way for the radio guidance transmitter and the torpedo's receiver to jump from frequency to frequency at the same time, rendering the enemy unable to locate and block a message before it had moved to another frequency. The approach became known as "frequency hopping," and the rest, as they say, is history.
4 - Dr. Gladys Mae West & the Global Positioning System (GPS)
The invention of the Global Positioning System or GPS is often attributed to Roger L. Easton, former head of Naval Research Laboratory that fathered a time-based navigational system. Touted as the "Father of GPS," he was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation by George W. Bush for his “extensive pioneering achievements in spacecraft tracking, navigation, and timing technology that led to the development of the NAVSTAR-Global Positioning System." However, there's one hidden figure named Dr. Gladys Mae West whose contributions to the GPS technology remain under-appreciated. During her time with the United States Naval Weapons Laboratory, she churned numbers and processed data from satellites to help determine their exact location. It wasn’t until 2018 that the government recognized her contributions. She was eventually inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame – one of Air Force’s Space Commands Highest Honors. They commended her for her “increasingly refined calculations for an extremely accurate geodetic Earth model, a geoid, optimized for what ultimately became the Global Positioning System (GPS) orbit.” Fast forward to today, her calculations are being widely used in GPS-powered technologies. A feature on GPS trackers by Verizon Connect notes that this technology is used in fleet tracking solutions to analyze daily operations and help improve essential areas such as safety, energy efficiency, and productivity. In Europe and Russia, the eCall regulation is reliant on GLONASS technology (a GPS alternative) and telematics to send data to emergency services in the event of a vehicle crash, reducing response time.
5 - Dr. Erna Schneider Hoover & the Call Center System
Dr. Edna Schneider Hoover was a mathematician who worked as a researcher for Bell Laboratories. In the 1950s, the company was only just starting to explore the development of electronic switching systems to improve the telephone's ability to take more phone calls. Their phone circuit equipment was constantly overloaded, and they were looking to come up with a way to handle the large volume. While recovering from giving birth to her second child, Hoover created a computerized solution to monitor call volumes and adjust acceptance rates. She invented what we now know as the Call Center System, which eliminated the danger of overload in processing calls. She received a software patent for it in 1971 and was the first woman appointed to head the technical department at Bell Laboratories. Thanks to her work, call centers have become incredibly efficient. Are you curious to find out more about women making waves across various industries? Check out our feature on '3 Influential Women in Science'.
Exclusively written for Million STEM (www.1mwis.com)
With thanks - this article was written by Brixie Judd.