Female Tech Pioneers

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, we’d like to add some more awesome people to your internal wiki of women who have made remarkable strides in the technology industry. Many of us already know that Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, and Admiral Grace Murray Hopper were computer science pioneers, but we owe our thanks to many other talented women as well.

Dr. Patricia Bath

Patricia Bath

A highly accomplished laser scientist and ophthalmologist, Patricia Bath was the first black person to serve as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University, the first black woman to serve as a staff surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center, the first female ophthalmologist to be appointed to the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine Jules Stein Eye Institute, and the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in the United States. Just in case you thought she couldn’t get any cooler, Dr. Bath also invented the Laserphaco Probe, which revolutionized the way cataracts are removed. With this invention, she saved the sight of countless people all over the world, some of whom had been blind for decades.

To read more about Dr. Bath, check out her biography from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the Black Inventor Online Museum.

Annie Easley

NASA_Science_and_Engineering_Newsletter_Annie_EasleyBack when the word “computer” referred to a person rather than a machine, Annie Easley was one at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and later NASA. It didn’t take long for her to pursue a degree in mathematics and, a bit later, she learned how to program using SOAP and FORTRAN. She contributed significantly to the development of the Centaur Upper Stage Rocket, which helped launch over 100 unmanned satellites and probes. To learn more about Ms. Easley in her own words, check out her interview for the NASA Headquarters History Office “Herstory” Project.

Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville


Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second black woman in the United States to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. She went on to join IBM and, as a result, worked on both NASA’s Project Vanguard and Project Mercury. After leaving IBM, she worked for the North American Aviation Company on Project Apollo. Without the contributions of Dr. Granville, it’s hard to tell where our space program would have gone. To read more about Dr. Granville, check out the article she wrote for SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women.

Dr. Mary Kenneth Keller

mary_kellerDid you know that the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science in the United States was a nun? Sister Mary Kenneth Keller graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1965; she also helped develop BASIC at Dartmouth University. She founded the computer science department at Clarke University and served as chair of the department for almost 20 years. Sister Mary Kenneth was also a proponent of getting women involved in computing. To learn more about Sister Mary Kenneth, check out her Wikipedia page.

These are only four women of the many thousands who’ve left their indelible stamp on every technical space, and to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Who are your favorite female tech pioneers? Let us know in the comments.

4 replies
  1. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Let me add to the list Hedy Lamar (1914–2000), who was key to the invention of spread spectrum radio and frequency hopping, used in wifi and cell phones today. The original work was part of a project to develop secure voice radio communication during the Second World War. (She might have been famous for some stuff in the entertainment industry as well.)

    Radia Perlman (b 1951) invented the spanning tree algorithm that makes network routing possible.

    Some of the math that is used in cryptography involves what are called “Sophie Germain primes”. Germain (1776–1831) was a French mathematician who had to steal the identity of a male dropout to begin her correspondences with the leading mathematicians in Europe. Once they got to know her work, she was able to drop the masquerade.

  2. Pili
    Pili says:

    There’s a pic going around on Facebook showing a young woman standing next to a stack of binders that is literally as tall as she is. The caption reads, “Margaret Hamilton, lead software engineer of the Apollo Project, stands next to the code she wrote by hand and that was used to take humanity to the moon, 1969.”


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