Augusta Ada King
(December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852)
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, born Augusta Ada Byron, was an English mathematician, scientist, and an associate of Charles Babbage. Babbage originated the concept of a mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. In 1843 Ada translated and annotated an article written by the Italian mathematician Luigi Federico Menabrea for Babbage. Ada's detailed notes are recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine; as such she is regarded as the world's first computer programmer. Ada foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching.
In her honor the computer language Ada, created on behalf of the United States Department of Defense, was named after her. The Military Standard for the Ada language, "MIL-STD-1815", was given the number of the year of her birth. Also, the British Computer Society established the Lovelace Medal, which is intended to be presented to individuals who have made a contribution which is of major significance in the advancement of Information Systems. And, Mid October has been commemorated by some as Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.
(November 9, 1913 - January 19, 2000)
Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-born American actress known primarily for her film career as a major star of the "Golden Age". She co-invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications, a key to many forms of wireless communication. On August 11, 1942 Lamarr and composer George Antheil patented (Secret Communication System - US Patent 2,292,387) the concept of "frequency-hopping", using a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies that was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam.
Lamarr's and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as COFDM used in Wi-Fi network connections and CDMA used in some cordless and wireless telephones. Lamarr and Antheil were honored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1997 with a special award for their trail-blazing development.
Grace Murray Hopper
(December 9, 1906 - January 1, 1992)
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was born in New York City. She graduated from Vassar College in 1928 and received a PhD in Mathematics from Yale University in 1934. She was a member of the Vassar faculty from 1931 to 1943, when she joined the Naval Reserve. Commissioned a Lieutenant (Junior Grade), she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance and immediately became involved in the development of the then new electronic computer. Over more than four decades to follow, she became a pioneer in computer and programming language progress. She is credited with coining the computer term "debugging" when a moth was removed from the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator, while it was being tested at Harvard University.
She developed the first computer compiler and the specifications for COBOL (common-business-oriented language) in 1959. COBOL is close to English rather than machine code (e.g., assembly language), and became one of the most widely used computer languages, still in use today. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) ("Amazing Grace") was named for her.
Programmers started out as "computers", a term used since 1613 to refer to a person who carried out calculations, or computations. The US Army used "computers" (a group of over 80 women working at the University of Pennsylvania during World War II) to calculate ballistics trajectories - complex differential equations - by hand.
In the 1940s the US Army funded the project called ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), the first general-purpose, electronic computer, capable of being reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems. ENIAC was heralded in the press as a "Giant Brain". It boasted speeds one thousand times faster than electro-mechanical machines, a leap in computing power that no single machine has since matched.
Six "computers" were selected to be ENIAC programmers: Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum. As the first programmers, they had no programming manuals or courses, only the logical diagrams to help them figure out how to make the ENIAC work.
The programmers had to physically program the ballistics program by using the 3000 switches and dozens of cables and digit trays to physically route the data and program pulses through the machine. All six women contributed to the programming the ENIAC. Many of them went on to develop innovative tools for future software engineers and to teach others early programming techniques. All six were inducted into the WITI Hall Of Fame in 1997.
Erna Schneider Hoover
(June 19, 1926)
Erna Hoover, born in Irvington, New Jersey. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College in classical and medieval philosophy and history in 1948 and a Ph.D. from Yale University in philosophy and foundations of mathematics in 1951. She was a professor in Swarthmore College from 1951 to 1954, when she joined Bell Labs. Later, she worked on the development of the Safeguard Anti-Ballistic Missile System and subsequently became the first woman to head a technical department.
While at Bell Labs, Hoover invented a Computerized Telephone Switching system for telephone traffic, to replace existing hard-wired, mechanical switching equipment. This architecture used "stored program control" to achieve an unprecedented level of flexibility. It gave priority to processes concerned with the input and output of the switch over processes that were less important such as record keeping and billing. This provided more robust service to callers during peak calling times. Some of her work was done while she was recuperating from the birth of her second daughter in the hospital and at home.
For this ground-breaking achievement -- the principles of which are still used today -- Hoover was awarded one of the first software patents ever issued (US Patent 3,623,007), and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008.
Radia Joy Perlman
Radia Joy Perlman is a software designer and network engineer sometimes referred to as the "Mother of the Internet". She is most famous for her invention of the spanning-tree algorithm which is fundamental to the operation of network bridges. The algorithm is specifically constructed to avoid bridge loops (multiple paths linking network segments, that result in an infinite loop situation). The algorithm is responsible for a bridge using only the most efficient path (route) between two computers in a network.
She is the author of the Interconnections textbook, and has a PhD from MIT in computer science. Her thesis on routing in the presence of malicious failures remains the most important work in routing security. She has also made contributions in credentials download, strong password protocols, analysis and redesign of IPsec's IKE protocols, PKI models, efficient certificate revocation, and distributed authorization.
West Area Computing Unit
The Langley Research Center of NASA began hiring women computers starting in the 1930s and especially during World War II. With many men being drafted or volunteering for war, industries which had previously been closed to women and people of color were opened temporarily. African American women with degrees in mathematics began to be hired for these positions. Many of them came from nearby HBCUs such as Hampton University and Virginia State University.
African American computers worked, ate, and even used the restroom in segregated facilities in the West Area at Langley, producing the name “West Area Computers.” Facilities were so thoroughly segregated that white computers often were not even aware of the presence of the West Area Computers. Computers were regularly “loaned” to different branches of NASA, which is how many African American women first entered these areas.
Originally supervised by white women, in 1949 Dorothy Vaughan was put in charge, becoming NASA's first African-American manager. Vaughan was a mathematician who worked at Langley from 1943 through her retirement in 1971. Mathematician Katherine Johnson, who in 2015 was named a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, joined the West Area Computing group in 1953. Mary Jackson also worked in the West Area Computing Unit, and the work of all three women (Vaughan, Johnson, and Jackson) is featured in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
The Flying Monkeys
The very first FIRST® Lego League Global Innovation Award ceremony was held at the USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, VA in June 2011.
First place was awarded to the Flying Monkeys, a team composed of 11 and 12 year old Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa. Their invention, the BOB-1 Hand Device, enabled a toddler born without fingers to hold a pencil and write for the first time.
On September 23, 2014, the young inventors were granted Patent No. US 8840157.