Let’s hear it for the pioneering women who helped to change the world, through their knowledge and application of STEM.
During times when women were marginalised, they didn’t always receive the credit they deserved, but we honour them here.
Here is the first half of our list of 10 STEM superwomen:
1. Hypatia of Alexandria
Greek mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and first female head of the Neoplatonic school in Roman Alexandria (Egypt). Her work with astrolabes helped to map the stars and she reputedly invented a hydroscopium – a water-powered clock with gears (like the Antikythera).She was murdered in AD 415 by a Christian mob for her ‘pagan’ beliefs in science’.
2. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Introduced smallpox inoculation to Britain. After witnessing women in Turkey using pus from a smallpox blister in scratched skin to provoke immunity, she had her children inoculated and persuaded the Princess of Wales to protect her daughters, too. She published an article advocating it in 17 Without her work, Edward Jenner’s later vaccine wouldn’t have been possible.
3. Laura Bassi
Italian scientist and first woman chair of physics at a European university (1776). She was an early proponent of Newtonian physics and the only female member of a special group of 25 scientists appointed by Pope Benedict XIV: the Benedettini,. She introduced Newtonian physics and Franklinian electricity into European academia.
4. Beatrix Potter (b. 1866)
Aged 21, she was the first Briton (and amongst few in the world) to notice that lichens were two different organisms: alga and fungus, living together in symbiosis. Better known for her animal stories (like Pater Rabbit), she was a fierce campaigner for conservation, bought up 4000 acres of land in the Lake District, and left them to the National Trust.
5. Grace Hopper
Mathematician, Computer Programmer, Military Leader. The first woman Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University (1934). In 1952, she created the first compiler for computers – a precursor to the high-level language, COBOL. She became known as Grandma Cobol, and popularised programming languages independent of machines – enabling future coders. She was also a U.S. Navy rear admiral.
Find out more about these amazing women, and try to guess who we picked for the next 5!