Celebrating female innovators for #womancrushwednesday

Every Wednesday during Women’s History Month, we’ll be featuring a list of women we admire for #womancrushwednesday. This week, we’re kicking off by sharing some of our favorite female innovators: computer scientists, mathematicians, a writer, an inventor, and a primatologist.

Admiral Grace Hopper, computer scientist & US Navy rear admiral

In 1944, Grace Hopper was one of the first programmers of the first computer, the room-sized Mark I. She also developed the programming language COBOL, the first programming language that used English words and phrases to make it easier for people to understand.

Admiral Grace Hopper won the first Computer Science Man-of-the-Year award in 1969. It is no wonder that the largest gathering of female computer scientists every year since 1994 is named after her: the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

“She coined the term ‘bug’!”

— Orlando Rodriguez, Software Engineer

Danica McKellar, actress & mathematics writer

Best known for her portrayal of Winnie Cooper, Fred Savage’s girlfriend in the TV drama “The Wonder Years,” Danica McKellar later graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics. Danica began publishing books on math in 2008 to encourage girls to investigate mathematics, especially young women in middle school, which is often around the age young women lose interest in STEM fields and opt out of higher-level math, science, and computer classes.

“As someone who struggled with math and science as a young girl and thought it wasn’t for her, Danica’s books inspire me to encourage my young daughters to explore hard sciences if they choose.”

— Kara Hoholik, Consultant Success Lead

Hedy Lamarr’s autographed photo hanging in Dennis’ home

Hedy Lamarr, film actress & innovator

Though some may remember Hedy Lamarr as a popular actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood in movies like “Samson and Delilah,” she was also a ‘self-taught inventor’ and the genius behind Patent No 2,292,387, a ‘Secret Communication System’ designed to keep Nazis from intercepting Allied transmissions during WWII.

Though her patent was ignored by the National Inventors’ Council (she was told she would make a bigger impact as an actress promoting war bonds), it was later adopted and became fundamental to how WiFi, Bluetooth, and other wireless networks work today.

“I keep an autographed picture on my wall that she signed for my parents years ago. When I use my WiFi, I have someone to thank.”

— Dennis Best, Senior Software Engineer

Jane Goodall, primatologist & anthropologist

Jane Goodall is the world’s foremost expert in chimpanzees. At the age of 26, she traveled to present-day Tanzania to study the Kasakela chimpanzee community at Gombe Stream National Park. Before Jane’s research, it was assumed that only humans knew how to use tools. Some scientists disapproved of the fact that Jane named all the chimpanzees she observed, rather than simply assigning them a number.

“As a nature lover and previous animal biologist, I admire Jane Goodall for her breakthroughs in animal behavior studies. We know so much more about primate behaviors and emotions because of this brilliant, brave woman!”

— Aubrey Mueller, Consultant Success Lead

Margaret Hamilton, computer scientist & business owner

Margaret Hamilton was the lead developer for Apollo flight software and specifically developed in-flight software. Hamilton’s work on the software was key to a successful and safe Apollo 11 landing when Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.

As the first lunar landing was happening, alarms went off signaling there wasn’t enough room on the computer for the landing software to work correctly, since the computer was getting overloaded with too much information. The software Hamilton led the effort to build helped make sure the computer recognized this and prioritized the most important task: to land on the moon.

“She’s awesome! She led the team that built the software for the Apollo Guidance Computer. They focused on reliability and error correction, and this paid off in ensuring a successful Apollo 11 moon landing. She also coined the term ‘Software Engineering,’ to give the field legitimacy. To this day (at 82!), she is still working on better techniques for software reliability and error correction.”

— Xiao Fan, Senior Software Engineer

Maryam Mirzakhani, mathematician

Maryam Mirzakhani’s love for mathematics didn’t start until high school — as a young schoolgirl, she had dreams of becoming a writer. She and a high school classmate became the first Iranian women to qualify for the International Mathematical Olympiad and in 1995 took a gold medal with a perfect score. To solve mathematical problems, Mirzakhani would draw doodles of mathematical problems on large sheets of paper while sitting on the floor — her daughter would describe her work as “paintings.”

In 2014, Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal, known as the ‘Nobel Prize for mathematics,’ which is awarded every 4 years to mathematicians under the age of 40. She was the first (and to date, only) woman to receive the award for her work on “the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”

“I’m inspired by Maryam’s story for many personal reasons. I loved her poetic approach to solving complex math problem (I was also a math major in college and taught a class on poetry). What saddens me is that she lost a battle to breast cancer just three years after winning the award, so we’ll never know what other doodles of mathematical genius she may have created had she lived longer.”

— Amal Dar Aziz, CEO & Co-founder

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