5 Inspiring Stories of Women in STEM History


Do you need some inspiration? In this blog, we are featuring five women from the history of different fields in science and technology who are a great inspiration for us all. Get to know these super talented women in tech and see what makes them so inspiring.

1. Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper, 1984

Grace Hopper was born on December 9, 1906, in New York, U.S. She was an American mathematician, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, and a pioneer in developing computer technology. The development of computer technology helped in devising UNIVAC, the first commercial electronic computer. She also developed the naval applications for COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language). 

Grace Hopper graduated from Vassar College in 1928 and completed her Masters from Yale University in 1934. Before joining the Navy, she taught mathematics at Vassar College and later joined the Navy in 1943. After becoming a lieutenant, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance’s Computation Project at Harvard University. There, she worked as a civilian research fellow while maintaining her naval career as a reservist. 

In 1949, she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp., where she designed an improved compiler. This compiler was used to translate the programmer’s instructions into computer codes. In 1966, she retired from the Navy as a commander. She died at the age of 79. Her work in the field of computer technology is a great inspiration for tech women.

Watercolour portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, circa 1840, possibly by Alfred Edward Chalon

2. Ada Lovelace

One of the most inspirational female programmers, Ada Lovelace, was born on the 10th of December. She was a British mathematician and writer and is known as the first computer programmer who in 1843 wrote and published the first computer algorithm. Lovelace did computer programming at the time when the scientific field was particularly challenging for women. She passed away at a very young age when she was only 36 years old.  Alan Turing’s work on the first modern-day computers was inspired by Ada Lovelace.

October 10th is celebrated as Ada Lovelace's day, in order to highlight her achievements in the field of Science and Technology. Ada has inspired many young women to consider pursuing the field of computer.

Elizabeth Feinler, 2012

3. Elizabeth Feinler

Elizabeth Feinler is an American Information Scientist.  She was a pioneer in developing and managing first the ARPANET, and later the Defense Data Network (DDN), and network information centers (NIC) under contract to the Department of Defense (DoD). These networks helped in developing today’s Internet.

The first Internet “yellow-” and “white-page” servers were developed by Feinler’s group. She also managed to establish the first query-based network hostname and address (WHOIS) server. Elizabeth's group managed the Host Naming Registry for the Internet from 1972 until 1989. During this project, they also developed the top-level domain-naming scheme of .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .org, and .net. These domain-naming schemes are still used today. 

Elizabeth was appointed as a Delegate at Large to the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Centers. She was also a member of ACM, ASIS, IEEE, and was a founding member of the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Image Courtesy: NASA

4. Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova was a Soviet cosmonaut. She was born in the Yaroslavl Region of Russia on March 6, 1937. Valentina's father was a tractor driver and her mother worked in a textile plant. She started going to school in 1945, at the age of eight. In 1953, she left school and started working to be able to help her parents. Although, she simultaneously continued her education. 

From an early age, she was interested in parachute jumping. She became so expert in parachute jumping, ultimately helping her get selected as a cosmonaut. At the time she was selected into the cosmonaut program, she was also working as a textile-factory assembly worker. The Soviet premier Ms. Nikita Khrushchev selected four women to be trained for a special women-in-space program. Out of these four women, only Valentina Tereshkova was able to complete the space mission.

On June 16, 1963, Tereshkova was launched aboard Vostok 6 and she became the first woman to fly in space. The flight was 70.8 hours long, during which Vostok made 48 orbits of Earth. After completing the mission, she was honored with the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Although she never flew in space again she became the spokesperson for the Soviet Union. She also received the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace. Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova is an example of bravery and hard work for all young women.

Image Courtesy: NASA

5. Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa was born on October 5, 1958, in Los Angeles, California. She is the first Hispanic-American female astronaut. She was able to fly on four space shuttle missions.

She got a degree in physics from San Diego State University in 1980. After which she studied electrical engineering at Stanford University. At that time, Sally Ride became the first American woman to go into space. This inspired her, and lead her to want  to become an astronaut. After getting her doctorate degree in 1985, she applied for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in order to enter its highly competitive astronaut program.

In 1990, she got admission in NASA's astronaut program. She made her first trip to space in 1993. In 1999, Ochoa participated in Discovery's mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

She also visits schools to share her space experiences with students. She motivates them with her encouraging quotes such as "Don't be afraid to reach for the stars," and "I believe a good education can take you anywhere on Earth and beyond."

Tayyaba Qamar