Women of STEM
Honour, Celebrate, Advocate.
We are a young brand in the commercial world, but resting on the shoulders of a founder with immeasurable experience in her field of drug-delivery innovation. Dr Suzanne Saffie-Siebert is a pioneer and an inspiration...quietly changing the way medicine will save people. In so doing, her work has led to creating a revelation in the delivery of actives in topical skincare, improving skin health, self confidence and challenging what we have come to expect in the world of beauty.
That’s the thing with people changing the course of history, especially in the world of STEM, they aren’t always front and center in the spotlight shouting about their work, they are often found absorbed in their discoveries, perfecting, testing, challenging and refining techniques. Their innovations throughout history have changed the course of our knowledge, understanding and yet so often, we barely know their names.
When we look back at fundamental evolutions in our understanding there has often been a woman involved or indeed, pioneering the research, which, considering we are still far from full global emancipation today, is pretty incomprehensible and worthy of our understanding.
This month, as part of the UN international calendar, we are celebrating #InternationalYouthDay and #WomenHumanitarians and connecting them to our own female founder, a scientist, innovator, disruptor and gamechanger. To capture all the key change-makers throughout history is impossible, but we wanted to highlight a few who we feel have been fundamental to our modern world.
Augusta Ada King-Noel (1815-1852)
The Countess of Lovelace, she was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron. She was an English mathematician and writer. She worked on Charles Babbage’s “Analytical Engine” proposed as a mechanical general purpose computer. She was the first to recognize the machine had use beyond pure mathematical calculations and published an algorithm to be used on the machine. This makes her the first computer programmer!
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Most notable as “the lady with the lamp” for her work in the Crimean War when she revolutionized the hygiene conditions for injured soldiers in hospitals and helped prevent the spread of disease by two thirds. She was awarded a huge sum by Queen Victoria of £250,000, which she invested in building St Thomas’s hospital in London, the home of Nursing Training. Known as the inventor of modern nursing and a social reformer, she famously said: “I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse.”
Rebecca Cole MD (1846-1922)
The second African-American woman to graduate med school (1867). She was a social reformer and pioneered in getting access to medical care for impoverished women. In 1873, Rebecca Cole MD established The Women’s Directory Centre in Philadelphia to enable destitute women and children access to medical and legal care. There are few records of her humanitarian efforts in her community and no photo survives of her, but she was recognized in the Philadelphia Innovators Walk of Fame in 2015.
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
The only woman in history to be awarded directly, or as a partnership, two Nobel Prizes in 1903 and 1911 for her contributions to science.
Her research on radioactivity is key to humankind. Her quest for understanding ultimately cost her her life. She added 2 elements to the Periodic Table - Radium and Polonium.
Her daughter Irene Juliet-Curie won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with her husband in 1935 for their discovery of artificial radioactivity made possible by her parents.
Her son-in-law Henry Labouisse who married her daughter Eve, received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Unicef in 1965. That’s quite a legacy.
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)
A geneticist who won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1983, the only woman to do so solo, in history. The award was recognition of her 40 years of work and discovery that genetic material is fluid not fixed as previously believed. She was a botanist PhD and studied maize and discovered cytogenetics making radical discoveries in cell division, DNA sequencing and ageing.
Her mindset is “science is open ended and unresolved” so “this is what we know” should caveat any findings and scientific assertions.
Joan Clarke (1917-1996)
A code breaker and cryptanalyst / cryptologist who graduated from Cambridge University with a 1st Class honours degree but was denied the full degree as she was a woman. She worked alongside Alan Turing at Bletchley Park and was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code during WW2 saving untold lives as a result.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
A pioneer in molecular biology and her x-ray diffraction work was instrumental in the discovery of the double-helix DNA. Her work within the field and her recognition in the fundamental discovery has been fraught with discussion and controversy as her male counterparts were awarded Nobel Prizes (never awarded posthumously) and her work was beaten to publication through unauthorized sharing of her work between research groups.
So we salute a woman who overcame adversity and was so strong in her ability that she threatened the established patriarchy in the world of medical science.
Dr Adriana Ocampo (born 1955)
A planetary geologist and science program manager at NASA. Columbian born, she has worked on several missions that have broadened our understanding of the further reaches of space with the Juno mission to Jupiter and New Horizon mission to Pluto.
Her research led to the discovery of the Chicxulub impact crater in Mexico. The impact that formed this crater caused the extinction of more than 50% of the Earth's species, including the dinosaurs. In 2002 she was named as one of the most important women in science.
She has an asteroid named after her as recognition of her contribution to space exploration! #goals !
We end with someone who, in some respects - makes all this possible. To find out about these people, to deepen our knowledge of subject matter, to entertain, to trade, to give ourselves boundless opportunity and creative outlet. Yet to most, her name will be unknown.
Radia Perlman (born 1951)
A computer scientist of MIT in the 60s when only 5% of students were women.
She was a pioneer in teaching children computer programming, developing a version of the robotics language system that even a 3 year old was able to operate. Radia was fundamental in developing an understanding of how computer networks organize and move data. In 1984 she developed the algorithm behind “the spanning tree protocol” STP taking the ethernet from being something only viable in one building, to what it is today. This protocol is still in place to this day. Her innovation makes the internet possible.
What more can you say!