Written by Xintong Guo, Digital Marketing Intern.
#STEAMspotlight is a series highlighting past and present STEAM pioneers—the scientists, techies, engineers, artists and mathematicians who continue to inspire future generations.
March is Women’s History Month, an annual celebration that highlights the vital role of women in American history. In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re presenting a very special edition of our #STEAMspotlight blog series—#STEAMqueens.
Who are #STEAMqueens, you ask? Well, they’re women who’ve made significant contributions to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) throughout history. That’s who.
We’re only featuring a few #STEAMqueens here on the blog today, but check out our Twitter feed for a new #STEAMqueen each and every day in March!
Now, let’s get started!
Chien-Shiung Wu, born May 31, 1912, was a Chinese-American experimental physicist who made significant contributions to nuclear physics. Chien-Shiung was born and raised in China, and she came to America when she was 24 to study physics at the University of California, Berkeley. During World War II, Chien-Shiung worked on the Manhattan Project, where she developed the process for separating uranium metal by gaseous diffusion. Her expertise in experimental physics earned her the nicknames “the First Lady of Physics,” “the Chinese Madame Curie” and “the Queen of Nuclear Research.”
Can you imagine hand-washing every single one of your dishes after a huge holiday feast? A fun birthday party? Heck, even after last night’s dinner? Isn’t that a nightmare? We should all take a moment to thank the inventor of the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher—Josephine Cochrane, born March 8, 1839.
How did this everyday appliance come to be? One of Josephine’s servants accidentally chipped some dishes while hand-washing ’em in the sink, inspiring Josephine to invent a dishwashing machine. Immediately, Josephine went to the library and hammered out the details of her design—within a half-hour, she had outlined the basic concept of the first mechanical dishwasher. After receiving a patent in 1886, Josephine started selling her dishwashers to hotels. Without a doubt, Josephine’s invention has made life (and chores) much easier. Thanks, Josephine!
Frances Spence, born March 2, 1922, and Betty Holberton, born March 7, 1917, were two of the programmers of ENIAC—the first digital computer. ENIAC was designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army. Frances and Betty were selected from a group of 200 female computer engineers at the University of Pennsylvania to program ENIAC. This all-female programmer team not only determined how to input ENIAC programs, but they also developed an understanding of ENIAC’s innerworkings.
Photographer Anna Atkins was born on March 16, 1799. Anna specialized in a variety of early photography techniques—the “photogenic” drawing method, where an object was placed on light-sensitized paper and exposed to sunlight to produce images, as well as the “calotype” technique, a photographic process that used paper coated with silver iodide to create images.
Anna published her photograms in Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, which is widely considered to be the first book illustrated with photographic images. Only 17 copies of the book are known to exist. If you want to see Anna’s artwork in person, the only U.S. institution with a copy is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Born March 27, 1924, Margaret K. Butler was a mathematician who participated in creating and updating computer software. Margaret began her career as a statistician and worked on the first commercially available machine, the UNIVAC. She was the first female fellow at the American Nuclear Society. In addition to her significant contributions to both mathematics and science, Margaret was also known to support and advocate for other women in STEM.
After studying our March #STEAMqueens, we feel empowered by their commendable contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math. We’re inspired by the waves they made, the barriers they broke and all they had to overcome to achieve their dreams.
And while Women’s History Month might have compelled us to shine the #STEAMspotlight on these women’s lives and stories for this month, we’ll carry their lessons and their legacies with us for years to come. At Thinkery, we truly believe that anyone and everyone can make an impact. You can make a difference. You can change the world. You can be a #STEAMqueen.