World IP Day 2023 celebrates the contributions of women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs around the world and their ground-breaking work.
Imagine what our lives might have been like if the following female innovators and their innovations never existed:
Marie Curie famously discovered both the elements Polonium and Radium and coined the term radioactivity. During World War I, she developed mobile radiography units as well as pioneered the use of radiological units in field hospitals, and invented ‘radium needles’ which sterilised infected tissue. It is estimated that over a million wounded servicemen were treated by her mobile units and the field hospital equivalents. Her discoveries and inventions have undoubtedly contributed to the development of atomic physics as well as radiotherapy treatments.
Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician of the 19th century, is considered to be the world’s first computer programmer. Her most famous work was done in partnership with Charles Babbage, designer of the Analytical Engine, now recognised as the first mechanical computer. Her translation of an article written about the Analytical Engine by Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea includes extensive notes explaining how the machine would work and how it would function, including a program for calculating an algorithm to generate Bernoulli numbers (used in complex mathematical calculations). It is recognised as the first published complex computer program. The computer programming language ADA was named after her in the 1970s. Additionally, Ada Lovelace Day was established in 2009 and now celebrates the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Hedy Lamarr, a famous movie star who appeared in films from 1930 to 1958, was also awarded a patent (alongside avant garde music composer George Anthell) for a mechanical frequency-hopping communication system designed to protect US radio guided torpedoes from being jammed. Lamarr paid for research into the device and also for the services of a patent law firm. Frequency-hopping is now used in modern communication systems including GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and Lamarr received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award in 1997 and was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Marian Croak, currently a Vice President of Google Engineering and previously Senior Vice President of Research and Development at AT&T, holds over 200 patents and is a pioneer in the development of Voice Over Internet (VoIP) communications. a ground-breaking technology that permeates our daily lives. She also developed the text-based technology that allows mobile phone users to donate money to charity via text. This alone has benefited millions of people on a global scale. For instance, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, more than $43 million in donations were collected via text messaging.
This World IP Day, let’s all celebrate the contributions women inventors and creators have made – and take steps to break down the barriers that still restrict women from pursuing careers in STEM, and from being recognised for their contributions to great technology and scientific advances.