Annie Easley. Katherine Johnson. Elizabeth Feinler. If you haven't heard their names, you're not alone — but without their legacies, our lives would likely be completely different. In celebration of Women's History Month, we're spotlighting the most important women in the history of technology, who quite literally built the world as we know it. From mathematician Katherine Johnson to Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, we honour these women for paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse field of STEM. Ahead, get inspired by their most important contributions to technology.
Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician
You might remember her portrayal by Taraji P. Henson in 2016's Hidden Figures. Johnson was instrumental in getting the first astronauts into space with her equations of orbital space flight. She was part of a trailblazing group of Black women, including Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who worked in NASA's Computer Pool. After 33 years at Langley, during which she authored and coauthored 26 research reports on space flight. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. Johnson passed away at the age of 102 on February 24.
Ada Lovelace, The First Computer Programmer
Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace was the daughter of poet Lord Byron is credited with bringing logic and poetic sensibilities to the mathematics of computers in her work on Charles Babbage’s Difference Machine, a calculating machine that was revolutionary in 1832, and then his Analytical Engine in 1843. Her Notes on the latter outlined her vision for the modern-day computer and what came to be known as the first computer program, as well as what she deemed "the science of operations" as its own independent science.
Annie Easley, Rocket Scientist
Easley joined NASA as a "human computer" in 1955, where she did calculations by hand and worked as one of four Black employees at the lab. She is best known for building code used to analyse energy alternatives and what eventually became the first early hybrid cars. She also served as an equal employment opportunity counsellor at NASA, where she championed the rights of women and people of colour in the workplace.
Elizabeth Feinler, Pioneer Of The Internet
From 1972 to 1989, Elizabeth Feinler pioneered the predecessors to the modern-day internet — the network information centres (NIC) for the ARPANET, which evolved into the Defense Data Network (DDN) and the internet. She ran the white and yellow pages of the internet — a.k.a. all the domain names — before there was a Domain Name System (DNS).
Donna Dubinsky, The Creator Of Digital Assistants
Dubinsky started her career in tech working in marketing at Apple in 1981. In 1992, she co-founded Palm, where she helped develop the first personal digital assistant — the Palm Pilot — along with Jeff Hawkins. The two then co-founded Handspring, known best for its original smartphone, Treo.