Badass Women in History

Hello Internet, Humanity has done some amazing things, and created some beautiful works. This week I want to continue the series of badass women in history by honouring three amazing ladies. These women were great contributors to technology, science, and art. We will meet the people who made sure Apollo 11 landed on the moon; pioneered the field of paleontology; and produced some of history’s most famous poetry you’ve never read. Margaret Hamilton Margaret Hamilton is one of the pioneers we can thank for getting people on the moon. When she took an internship at MIT to work on software to predict the weather, Hamilton was well on her way to becoming a software giant. In the early 60s, there was no computer science, and no software engineering. Programmers learned on the job, and in stark contrast to silicon valley today were mostly women. She then joined up with the famous SAGE program. This program is known for making huge advancements in computer technology in order to build a networked radar system that could sniff out enemy aircraft entering US airspace. Hamilton did so well at SAGE, that she attracted the attention of NASA. She transferred to a lab at MIT doing work for them and quickly became the director of software programming for both Apollo and Skylab. Many of the projects she worked on are foundational important mechanics of modern software design. Hamilton’s team worked out the guidance software on the Apollo 11 mission, and it’s a good thing too as it prevented the abort of the mission to land on the moon at a critical phase. Because of the architecture her team developed, the computer was able to recover from an overload, and got Apollo on the moon. Afterwards she took her methods and started two businesses. This includes asynchronous software, where the computer splits a complicated program into smaller ones and solves them all in a parallel structure, human-in-the-loop decision capability, which allows humans to see variables going into a calculation before in order to ensure everything is moving along nicely, priority scheduling, and end-to-end testing. Lastly, she popularized the term software engineering. When NASA was developing some of the most advanced technologies of the 20th century, Margaret Hamilton was their go-to for software, which arguably has become the most important developments of our age. Mary Anning Ok, so like many young people I had a thing for dinosaurs. I still have to see them when I go to a museum, and annoy anyone I’m with musing about how unbelievable such alien giants actually being real is. I also am prone to giving long contexts about artifacts in the museum. Basically I’m kind of the worst to go with. Mary Anning changed the way many of us see ancient life, and even the age of the earth. She was one of the first paleontologists, and one of the most famous fossil collectors in history. Her haunt was the cliffs in Dorset county of England. She would, very dangerously I might add, search for fossils before they’d be reclaimed by the sea. These collections would contain the first ichthyosaur, the first two plesiosaurs, the first pterosaur, and several ancient fish. I know someone is already typing in the comments section about how these aren’t dinosaurs, and while I will admit you are correct, I will raise you the sound of millions of crying eight year olds. Good job, you just made all of our inner children cry. While Mary was making these mind boggling discoveries, she wasn’t involved in the he-man woman haters club that represented scientists of this era. The English scientists of the age got together and all agreed that she was just too female and poor to be a scientist. You know who did like her though? Geologists. She became famous in the western world, and would often be asked to consult on ancient anatomy, and the methods of collecting fossils. Alas, much like the scientists, the Geological society determined that she had but one X chromosome too many to be a geologist. She never got full credit for any of her discoveries. In her own words, “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.” The only time anyone would publish her work, was a letter to the editor of a magazine. Better late than never, after her death she finally won some recognition. A book in 1865 tried to get people to make her name one that was famous, and in 2010 the Royal society decided to include her in a list of the most influential British women in the history of science. Sadly, her story is not uncommon, and many of our scientific discoveries have been made on the unaccredited work of awesome women never given the chance by their peers. Sappho We’ve lost so much art. I don’t just mean we can’t find where it’s hiding, but so many things no longer exist. Let’s look at ancient Greece for example. What we know as the famous Greek plays, stories, poems, and philosophies, are a tiny sliver of what was there. And I have to say that the loss of Sappho’s work might be one of the biggest losses of art we’ve ever had. We don’t know too much about Sappho, she was born in the 5th century BCE, on Lesbos, and wrote poetry, most of which no longer exists. Here’s the thing, we can tell that she might have been the JK Rowling of her day. Her writing, is referred to often as some of the best of antiquity. And yet almost none of it survives to today. Here’s what has survived. We have…parts… of a bunch of her poems, but only two complete ones. This is someone who published multiple books of poems. She had a long legacy in the age of antiquity, with many adorers who called her one of the greatest lyric poets of all time. I will simply finish with a quote about her ascribed to Plato: “Some say the Muses are nine: how careless!
Look, there’s Sappho too, from Lesbos, the tenth.” That’s all for now. If you have any suggestions for new badass women of history, tell me about them in the comments, and I might use them in the next installment of the series. Be sure to like the video and subscribe for more Step Back.

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