From artists to activists, scientists to entrepreneurs, women have made invaluable contributions in their fields, some of which have shaped the world we live in today. As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, let us pause to acknowledge five incredible women in research, who have displayed incredible strength, resilience, and determination to chase their dreams and inspire us with their ground-breaking work.
Join in as we take this day as a chance to remember some extraordinary women and honour their achievements that often go amiss.
Yi Soyeon grew up in a small town in South Korea where most women didn’t go to school. Yi earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and worked on a doctorate from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Her focus took her all the way into the Korean space program in Russia for a flight to the International Space Station. In 2008, Yi became the first female astronaut in the nation’s history to go into space and is among the few people who have ever been to the International Space Station.
Yi believed, “On Earth, men are seen as superior because of their physical strength, but it means nothing in space, where there is no gravity.”
Lady Ada Lovelace
Known primarily for her contributions to Charles Babbage’s proposed Analytical Engine, Ada Lovelace was a notable English mathematician and writer. Lovelace was the first person in the world to recognize that the proposed general-purpose computer machine had potential beyond pure calculation, and she even published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. Thanks to her ground-breaking work, she is widely regarded as the ‘world’s first computer programmer’. Even after her work with Babbage, called the father of computers, Ada went on to work on many other projects and earned quite a name for herself.
Ada believed, “Your best and wisest refuge from all troubles is in your science.”
Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was only 24, Hodgkin never let this debilitating disease stop her. She modified her choices in equipment to suit her physical limitations and went on to be a trailblazer in the field of chemistry. Dorothy was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947 and received the Royal Medal in 1956. She remains the only British woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize for science ‘for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances’.
Dorothy believed, “There are two moments that are important. There’s the moment when you know you can find out the answer and that’s the period you are sleepless before you know what it is. When you’ve got it and know what it is, then you can rest easy.”
Inge Lehmann, born in Denmark, attended a progressive school that promoted gender equality by treating boys and girls equally. However, her experiences in the mathematical and scientific community were vastly different. She once shared her frustration with her nephew saying,
“You should know how many incompetent men I had to compete with—in vain.”
Inge’s contributions to the field of geophysics were recognized when she received the William Bowie Medal, which is the highest honour awarded by the American Geophysical Union. Her mastery earned her a reputation as “the master of a black art for which no amount of computerizing is likely to be a complete substitute.”
Edith Clarke was a pioneering electrical engineer who performed difficult mathematical calculations before modern-day computers and calculators were invented. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015 and smashed another milestone as the first woman to present a paper to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) . She was the first woman named as a Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and is also the author of ‘Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems’.
Edith believed, “There is no demand for women engineers, as such, as there are for women doctors; but there’s always a demand for anyone who can do a good piece of work.”
As we reflect on the achievements of women throughout history and the ongoing struggle for gender equality, let us remember that the fight is far from over. We must continue to advocate for the rights of women, to challenge gender-based discrimination, and to support women in research and all aspects of life. That’s when we’ll all be uplifting each other in true sense.
On that note, Happy Women’s Day to you all!