For today’s reflection, we have a few of the many women who developed technologies that have made our world a better place, in spite of having to overcome the stigma of being female. These are indeed part of the base upon which women’s rights were built.
Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was born in 1906 in New York City. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar in 1928 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics. Grace earned her master’s degree at Yale University in 1930 and her Ph.D. from Yale in 1934.
Grace was a professor of Mathematics at Vassar College and, in 1943, entered the Unitd States Navy Reserve. She was part of the team that developed UNIVAC. By 1952, Grace had created the first computer compiler, the software that translates human language into the zeroes and ones that computers use. This paved the way for personal computers. She also was involved in the development of the business language COBOL. She retired (involuntarily) from the Navy on August 14, 1986 with the rank of Admiral. Admiral Hopper died on January 1, 1992.
Chien-Shiung Wu was born May 31, 1912 in China. Wu earned her Ph.D. at Caltech. She was a nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. She helped develop the process for separating uranium metal into uranium-235 and uranium-238 isotopes necessary for the atom bomb. She is best known for conducting the “Wu Experiment” which contradicted the hypothetical law of conservation of parity. She died in 1997 in New York.
Patricia Bath was born in 1942 in Harlem. She is an American ophthalmologist. Patricia was the first woman to serve on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute or and first to head a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology. She was also the first black person to serve as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University and the first black woman to serve on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center.
Patricia received her B.A. in chemistry from Manhattan’s Hunter College in 1964. She received her doctoral degree in 1968 from Howard University College of Medicine. In 1981, Patricia invented and patented the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improved the laser used to remove cataracts. In doing so, Patricia was the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Patricia’s laser quickly and almost painlessly dissolves the cataract and allows easy insertion of the new lens.
Stephanie Kwolek, was born July 31, 1923. Stephanie was born in Pittsburgh and is of Polish descent. She was hired by DuPont in 1946, during World War II, when many men were overseas. She was an American chemist best known for creating Kevlar. Kevlar or polypara-phenylene is synthetic fibers with exceptional strength and stiffness. Kevlar is used as a reinforcing agent in rubber products, including tires, and in protective helmets and vests. She died in 2014.
Judith Resnik was born in 1949 in Akron, Ohio. Judith was the second American female astronaut. She was also the first Jewish woman in space. She graduated from Carnegie Melon University and received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland. Her first space flight was aboard Discovery in 1984. She was a mission specialist aboard Challenger. She died in the Challenger in 1986.
Katherine Blodgett was born in 1898 in Schenectady, New York. Katherine received her B.A. degree from Bryn Mawr in 1917. She received her M.A. from the University of Chicago where her research on gas masks during World War II showed that almost all poisonous gases are absorbed by carbon molecules. She earned her Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1926. As a research scientist at GE, she developed “Langmuir-Blodgett film”, a non-reflective lens used for projectors, cameras, and submarine periscopes and spy cameras during World War II. She died in 1979.