In honour of International Women’s Day, Here are a few links celebrating some women who made significant, if sometimes unsung, contributions to their field.
For instance, the majority of staff at Bletchley Park were WRENs, working on breaking Nazi codes and operating some of the earliest electronic computers, such as Colossus; some of their memories are recorded here.
Those WRENs fall within something of a tradition, because before computers were computers, computers were people, with the term referring to a fairly menial role manually crunching numbers for navigational charts, scientific data and the like. One of these ‘computers’ was Henrietta Swan Leavitt who, while routinely counting data for Harvard College Observatory, figured out the basis of measuring distances between astronomical objects, which in turn provided evidence for the expansion of the universe. Not bad for $10.50 a week, although sadly you won’t be surprised to hear that she received no recognition for this until after she died in 1921.
Of course, you can’t talk about women and computing without mentioning the Enchantress of Numbers, Ada Lovelace, who has been reclaimed relatively recently as a hero to both feminists and geeks. I’ll be cheeky and refer you to a post I wrote about her a while back.
Ironically enough, given the contribution made by women to computing, it turns out that the International Women’s Day website has been under attack by hackers. Ada would kick their asses.
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