This post is looking at famous Girl Geeks from past and present who have influenced or innovated some of the worlds most important discoveries and inventions. Without these wonderful minds we would inevitably be looking at a very different digital landscape today.
A slight move away from tech to science, but Rosalind Franklin is arguably an incredibly important person in the history of the world. Rosalind discovered DNA. Most of you know the discoverers of DNA to be Watson, Crick and maybe Wilkins but Rosalind regularly gets overlooked.
Born in 1920 to a father who was a scientist, he dissuaded her from a career in science as he felt it was a very difficult field for a woman to excel in.
Although the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice WIlkins for solving the structure of DNA Rosalind gave a speech in 1951 on what she deduced was the double helix structure of DNA.
Rosalind has worked with Maurice Wilkins whilst she was lecturing at Kings College, London. She had been hired whilst he was away and when he returned wrongly presumed she had been employed as his assistant. He claimed he took no note of her lecture on the double helix structure as part of his discovery. Nobel do not award posthumous prizes so she has never formally been recognised by this institution.
In 1986 Judy wrote and programmed ‘Uncle Roger’, the first online hyperfiction project which is a genre of electronic literature which promotes a non-linear reading style allowing the reader more interaction with the fictional world. The 1989 Wall Street Journal Centennial Edition (which also predicted that we’d replace filling cabinets with computer memory) called her project the start of a future art form. Uncle Roger appeared on Art Com Electronic Network on the WELL.
Judy was a pioneer of electronic art, an author AND programmer she brought together her skills in a new and exciting way. She conceived the idea for what she called her “narrabase” when computers were still screen-less, room filling machines – that is true innovation.
Martha Lane Fox
Baroness Lane Fox, our second member of the aristocracy on this list, is a tech-entrepreneur who continues to challenge our digital horizons today.
She harnessed the online explosion of the late 1990s and early 2000s to launch the infinitely successful lastminute.com (which I don’t know about you, but I check daily looking for a 23rd hour escape!).
Since selling lastminute.com Martha has been a UK Digital Champion working with our government to promote digital awareness and skills and is also a patron of digital skills charity Go On UK. When she started with the organisation 16 million people in the UK didn’t have basic digital skills. Martha and the team she works with recognised the challenges these people would face in a progressively more digital society and economy and sought to educate them with the skills to access this.
Whilst guest-blogging on Stephen Fry’s site Martha said,
“The number of women in the UK tech sector is actually falling as an overall percentage and yet the sector is growing in importance – if current trends are not reversed ladygeek estimates only 1% of the sector could be female by 2040.”
A sobering thought to leave on, but lots of inspirational women to follow the lead of! So let’s get to work ladies.
Written by Rebecca