When Steve Jobs died, the world mourned. When Jean Bartik died the same year, very few noticed. But without Jean Bartik, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have made it. No, Jean is not his mother, sister or wife but was the first computer programmer of the world and one of the six women who gave birth to the computer software industry. Without her, the computer won’t exist. She was 86 when she passed away and no one noticed! Are you aware that a woman invented paper on which you are reading this or if you are reading this on the Net, the mother of the Internet search engine is a woman? Women are disguised by the country in which they are born “Paper was invented in China” instead of paper was invented by Chinese woman and Empress Shi Dun or a Department “.
People search for everything from baby names to jobs, products to project guides on the Internet. However, what many do not know is that this search is possible because of a woman named Radia Perlman. In the 1970s, Radia was working at a school, teaching programming for children. She made several presentations at computer conferences on tangible computing and spanning tree algorithm. She was ignored until 1980.
A manager at Digital Equipment decided it might solve their problem and hired her. The routing problems disappeared. Nowadays the spanning tree algorithm, which helps direct network traffic has become so embedded in the Internet, that Radia Perlman is nicknamed “Mother of the Internet”. Today, she works at Sun Microsystems and is the owner of the maximum number of patents in the world. Next time, you Google or use any other search engine, remember Radia Perlman.
Most of you might have watched the Oscars. But did you know that it is a Hollywood actress who invented the spectrum technology that makes your cellphone/mobile function? The spread spectrum technology is used in multiple wireless applications today but the lady who invented it is not known. Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was a Austrian born Hollywood actress better known as Hedy Lamarr whose most famous hit was Samson and Delilah, the first colour film ever produced where she plays Delilah. She was the first woman to wear strapless gowns in movies. She became notorious for it. Her lesser known other first is that she is co-inventor of frequency hopping technology and the inventor of spread spectrum technology, which is used in our cell phones, internet, Wi-Fi, defence satellites and a plethora of other wireless devices used today. She is one actress who went from strapless to wireless easily and was the first human to do both.
Florence Nightingale, the “famous” nurse was a brilliant mathematician and her invention of the pie chart that businesses, researchers, and governments worldwide use nowadays is unknown. Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, a material that is stronger than steel. Lightweight, it doesn’t rust or corrode and is used to make bulletproof vests, underwater cables, parachutes, spacecrafts, skis, etc. Without Kevlar, space travel would be impossible. Neither would satellite technology nor would Internet be commercially viable for many countries.
Your car cannot run without petrol or diesel and without crude oil refining, it is not possible to get anything to run. Did you know this is possible due to a woman? Edith Flanigen invented the crude oil refining process in 1956 and her molecular sieves made petroleum production efficient, safer, commercially viable and cleaner worldwide.
While observing March 8 as International Woman’s Day, it is important to remember that everything we think we cannot live without has been invented by women and salute the women who made it all possible. It is time these women are recognised, as otherwise history would remain incomplete. Let us recognise and celebrate other women who are still alive like Anousheh Raissyan Ansari, Radia Perlman, Gertrude Elion, Katherine Blodgett, Gail Naughton, Leah Maxwell, Dr. Patricia Bath, Mina Bissell, Krisztina Holly, and more who have made life easier for us all today.
Deepa Kandaswamy is a freelance journalist based in Chennai WAM/MN