Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate and encourage women in the fields of science and technology.
It’s a perfect time to look back and catch up on biographies of some incredible people whose stories have been featured over the past year. You’ll find a ton of those below, but while we have your attention we wanted to make an appeal to help shine some light onto those stories we have yet to feature in our Profiles in Science series. Let us know about women whose stories you’d like to see on Hackaday in the coming year by leaving a comment below. Of course, it’s not just today, we’re always looking for suggestions and the tips line is always open.
Getting a rocket engine off of the launch pad is itself a tricky proposition, but reaching an orbital velocity is an entirely different story. During the space race, the US was on the lookout for a fuel that could do the trick, and the answers came from a chemist who grew up in a small town in North Dakota then started a college degree before for a job at Plumb Brook Ordnance Works. Mary Sherman Morgan came through with the formulation for Hydyne that powered the Redstone Rocket project.
Also working in the aerospace realm, Elsie MacGill was known as the Queen of the Hurricanes. It’s not a quip on the weather, but a title she earned through her breakthroughs on the production lines for the Hurrican fighter planes during World War II. Her aeronautical engineering skills super-charged mass production of these aircraft and she went on to “write the book” on manufacturing aircraft at scale.
When we think of studying animals in the wild, Dian Fossey’s legacy looms large. Her story is one of dedication to scientific study and advocating for wildlife conservation. The former was a groundbreaking set of techniques Dian developed to study primates in their natural habitats. The latter made her efforts known far and wide through the publishing of her book Gorillas in the Mist, which was adapted as a movie after her death.
Want to talk about a breakthrough so fundamental that we take it for granted every day? Alice Catherine Evans’ work to make pasteurization of all milk a given at a time when many thought a healthy-looking cow could be trusted to produce low-bacteria milk. Her science showed the fallacy of this assumption and saved lives by first leading to milk grading practices and later to nearly universal pasteurization.
Remember the third Curie? Not Marie or Pierre, but still a scientist who worked on radioactivity? It was their daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie who made breakthroughs in artificial radiation and went on to win the Nobel prize along with her husband and lab partner Frederic. This discovery was key in developing radioactive materials for medical use.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without electronic music, but the field is really only a few generations old. Daphne Oram saw the potential for electronic music early on and in the 1940s and 50s she made monumental advances in adapting the cutting edge in electronics to making music. From hacking on newly invented tape recorders to building some of the earliest synthesizers and what we would today call circuit bending, Daphne was driving the evolution of the earliest electronic instruments and techniques.
Everywhere you look there are fascinating stories on how we got here as a society. But as I said before, we need your help discovering the scientists, engineers, and hackers behind them. On this Ada Lovelace Day we invite you to leave a comment below about some of your favorite stories of women who have made an impact on the world. We’d love to dig into these stories as part of our ongoing Profiles in Science series.