Hidden Figures of Tech: Meet the Women Who Built the Digital World

The Digital Revolution Wouldn’t Be Possible Without Them! This Women’s Day, forget flowers. Celebrate the brilliant women who dared to code, invent, and push boundaries. Their forgotten stories built the digital world you live in – and inspire us to find more.

Their contribution to the development of science and computer science is invaluable, and their stories inspire exploration of new possibilities and pushing boundaries. Below, we present inspiring examples of women who, thanks to their intelligence, determination, and passion for science, have changed and continue to change the world. 

1. Ada Lovelace

The Countess Who Wrote the World’s First Computer Program. Before computers existed, this brilliant noblewoman saw their future – and changed history.

Imagine a world of steam engines and rustling gowns. It’s the 19th century, and Ada Lovelace, daughter of famed poet Lord Byron, defies expectations. She’s not obsessed with verse, but with the thrilling potential of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine – a visionary, but unfinished, precursor to the computer.

Ada didn’t just admire Babbage’s invention; she became his collaborator. Her genius for mathematics led her to create algorithms, the instructions that would guide his machine. In doing so, she introduced concepts we still use today – loops, conditional statements – becoming the world’s first computer programmer.

Sadly, the Analytical Engine remained a beautiful dream. But Ada’s work was not forgotten. Her ideas, decades ahead of their time, laid the foundation for future programmers and the digital revolution we now live in.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer who is considered to be the first computer programmer. She worked with Charles Babbage, a British mathematician and inventor, on his Analytical Engine, a mechanical computer that was never actually built. Lovelace wrote a paper describing how the Analytical Engine could be used to perform calculations, which is considered to be the first computer program.

  •  She was the first person to write a computer program, although it was never executed. 
  • Her mother, Annabella Milbanke, educated her in mathematics and logic, which was unusual for the time. 
  • Ada Lovelace was also a poet and wrote verses inspired by mathematics and science. 
  • She died at the age of 36 from cancer, likely due to mercury poisoning used in the treatment of syphilis.

2. Hedy Lamarr

The Bombshell Who Invented the Tech in Your Pocket. She was the silver screen’s ultimate femme fatale…but this glamorous star also held patents that changed the world.

Picture it: 1930s Hollywood. Hedy Lamarr dazzles with beauty and wit, the toast of every red carpet. But beyond the glitz, a brilliant mind hums. Born in Austria, a fascination with science fueled her from childhood.

Fleeing the Nazis, she conquered Hollywood, but her restless intellect craved more. World War II raged, and Hedy teamed up with a composer, George Antheil. Their inspiration? The piano. They designed a system where signals hopped between frequencies, just like musical keys, making them impossible for enemies to intercept.

Sadly, the military scoffed at a glamorous actress-turned-inventor. Yet, decades later, her idea became bedrock for your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth… even GPS. Hedy Lamarr, though recognition came late, embodies the power of brains and beauty, daring to smash the limits of what a woman could be.

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000)

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress and inventor. She was known for her beauty and acting talent, but she was also a brilliant inventor. During World War II, she co-developed a secret communication system that used frequency hopping to prevent the enemy from intercepting messages. This system was later used to develop technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

  • In addition to acting and inventiveness, Hedy Lamarr was also interested in art, painting, and aviation. 
  • She held a pilot’s license, and during World War II, she volunteered for service in the aviation sector, but her request was rejected. 
  • In 1997, she received the EFF Pioneer Award for her contribution to the development of technology. 

3. Margaret Hamilton

Forget Houston, She Had a Problem: Meet the Software Genius Who Landed Apollo 11. In 1969, the world held its breath for the moon landing. But behind the scenes, Margaret Hamilton was coding the fate of history.

Picture this: 1969. Neil Armstrong’s heart is pounding, the world is watching and… a computer glitch could destroy it all. But Margaret Hamilton isn’t sweating. This MIT whiz kid leads the team that wrote the code guiding Apollo 11. In an age of primitive computers, she’s the architect of a near-impossible task: software to pilot a spaceship to the moon and back.

Hamilton & her crew work tirelessly. There’s zero room for error, one bad line of code means disaster. They foresee every crisis, coding elegant solutions that will keep astronauts alive millions of miles from Earth.

July 20th, 1969: The Eagle lands. Armstrong takes that historic step, thanks in no small part to Hamilton. Now dubbed the “first lady of software”, her brilliance proved women belong in the control rooms of history’s biggest missions.

Margaret Hamilton was an American computer scientist who was a pioneer in the field of software engineering. She is best known for her work on the Apollo 11 mission, where she led the team that developed the software that guided the spacecraft to the moon.

  • She received numerous awards for her contribution to the Apollo program, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. 
  • In 2016, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
  • In 2019, the film “Apollo 11” highlighted her key role in the Moon mission. 

4. Grace Murray Hopper

“Amazing Grace”: The Code-Cracking Admiral Who Built the Language of Computers. This trailblazing mathematician didn’t just talk to computers, she taught them how to speak our language.

Picture the 1940s: computers are room-sized beasts, a mystery to most. But Grace Hopper sees their potential. A math whiz with a rebellious spirit, she joins the Navy and dives into the world of early programming.

Hopper faces a problem: computers only understand complex code. Her genius? Creating a language they “speak”, while humans can use something closer to plain English. She even coins the term “bug” for glitches! This breakthrough, the COBOL language, transforms how we interact with machines.

But “Amazing Grace” isn’t done. She keeps innovating, paving the way for the user-friendly computers we rely on today. Oh, and she also became the first female admiral in the US Navy. Because why limit your brilliance to just one field?

Grace Hopper (1906-1992)

Grace Hopper was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. She was a pioneer in the field of computer programming and is credited with developing the first compiler for a computer programming language. Hopper also coined the term “bug” to refer to an error in a computer program.

  • She was known for her unique sense of humor and love for storytelling anecdotes. 
  • She received numerous awards for her contribution to computer science, including the National Medal of Technology and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 
  • In 1991, the US Navy named a destroyer USS Hopper in her honor.

5. Evelyn Berezin

The “Mother of Word Processing”: Meet the Woman Who Streamlined Coding. In a dawn of clunky machines, Evelyn Berezin didn’t just write code, she revolutionized how it’s created.

The year is 1946. Computers are still a sci-fi dream for most, but Evelyn Berezin sees their potential to transform how the world works. With a head for math, she joins the pioneers of early programming, including the legendary Grace Hopper.

At the forefront of the COBOL language (think the foundation for many you know today), she spots a major problem: coding is slow and tedious. Her solution? She builds the first compiler for COBOL. It’s like a translator for computers, making programmers’ lives infinitely easier and faster.

But Berezin isn’t done. Later, she creates a groundbreaking word processing system, paving the way for office software we take for granted. This tech visionary was always thinking about the practical way code can change how we work and communicate.

Evelyn Berezin (1925-2018)

Evelyn Berezin was an American computer scientist who was a pioneer in the field of programming languages. She worked on the development of the COBOL programming language, which is one of the most popular programming languages in history. Berezin also developed the first compiler for the COBOL language.

  • She was one of the first women to work on computer programming. 
  • In 1969, she received the Grace Hopper Award for outstanding achievements in the field of programming languages. 
  • In 2015, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

6. Lisa Gelobter

Meet the Woman Who Built the Internet You Love (And Fought to Keep it Free). In the early days of the web, Lisa Gelobter saw its power – and the dangers of unchecked surveillance.

Picture the 1980s: the internet is a wild west, full of potential but no real rules. Lisa Gelobter isn’t just a coding whiz, she’s a visionary. She helps lay the network foundations (think the plumbing that makes your browser work).

But Gelobter knows the web won’t reach its potential if corporations and governments can spy on us all. She joins the EFF, becoming a warrior for digital privacy. She’s one of the first to ring the alarm on tracking and data misuse, long before it was front-page news.

This brilliant woman wasn’t just a defender – she kept building. Her tech helped power things like online animation (remember Shockwave? Hulu?) shaping how we experience the web. Gelobter’s legacy is the internet we enjoy today: open, innovative, but with champions like her fighting to keep it safe.

Lisa Gelobter (1957-2017)

Lisa Gelobter was an American computer scientist and activist who was a pioneer in the field of internet technology. She worked on the development of network protocols, such as TCP/IP, which form the foundation of the internet. Gelobter was also a strong advocate for digital privacy.

  • She was one of the first individuals to use the term “cyberspace.” 
  • In 1993, she founded the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), an organization dedicated to privacy protection. 
  • In 2000, she was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. 

7. Erna Schneider Hoover

The Woman Who Made Your Phone Calls Possible: Meet Erna Schneider Hoover. Before cell towers and smartphones, this genius gave us the tech to actually stay connected.

Picture a world without texting, video calls, or ordering pizza with a tap. That was life before Erna Schneider Hoover. A childhood fascination with logic and problem-solving led her to a career where she quite literally rewired how the world communicates.

Joining the famed Bell Labs in 1960, she faces a problem. Phone systems are clunky and overloaded. Her solution? Let computers handle the switching. It sounds simple, but her system (the 1ESS) transforms clunky calls into the rapid, smooth connections we expect.

Erna doesn’t stop there. Think of the next time you book a flight or hear a calm voice guiding planes through the sky. Her innovations helped make those systems possible too.

Erna Schneider Hoover (1926-2023)

She was an American mathematician who invented a computerized telephone switching method that revolutionized modern communication. Her work led to the development of the stored program control system, which is still used in telephone networks today. Hoover was a pioneer in the field of computer science and her legacy continues to inspire women in STEM fields today.

  • She was one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University. 
  • She obtained over 40 patents for her inventions. 
  • In 2013, she was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the highest honor for technologists in the United States. 

9. Mira Murati

Meet the Woman Coding the Future: Mira Murati and the Rise of Smart Machines. She’s building AI that talks like us, thinks like us – and that could change everything.

Forget sci-fi movies – the age of truly intelligent machines is here. Leading the charge is Mira Murati. A programmer since childhood, she now crafts cutting-edge AI at OpenAI.

Her focus? Language models. Not just code, but software that writes, translates, answers questions… like a human, only faster. Her brainchild, the GPT-3 model, is blowing minds in the tech world.

But Murati isn’t just about raw power. She knows AI can uplift or destroy society. That’s why she champions ethical development – ensuring these “smart” machines are built to serve us, not control us.

Mira Murati (born 1988)

Mira Murati is a computer scientist and engineer who is currently working on artificial intelligence at OpenAI. She is known for her work on language models, which are computer programs that can generate text, translate languages, and answer questions in a way that is natural to humans. Murati is also an advocate for responsible development of artificial intelligence.

  • In 2023, she was appointed as the interim CEO of OpenAI. 
  • She is the recipient of numerous awards, including MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35. 
  • She has spoken at various conferences, including TED Talks. 

Rebels, Visionaries, Unsung Heroes: The Women Who Built Our Digital World

From countesses to wartime codebreakers, these women weren’t content to follow the rules. Their genius shattered expectations of their era, pushing the limits of technology forward. They built the foundations upon which our connected lives now rest.

Yet, so many of these stories remain buried. Hidden figures whose brilliant contributions to science are forgotten, their names lost to history. It’s up to us to unearth these tales of triumph, to ensure their work inspires the next generation to think big and break the mold.

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