Skip to main content
The Keyword

Arts & Culture

Past and present female pioneers of science

Article's hero media

The manifold contributions that women have made to the world of science are an undeniable part of humanity's history of scientific progress. And while more and more efforts are being made to ensure these heroines receive the credit and acknowledgement they are due, many of the female faces behind the inventions that shaped us all remain hidden.

This is why on the occasion of today’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we have opened up a whole new experience on Google Arts & Culture’s Women in Culture hub. We’d like to invite you to start your exploration by getting acquainted with five past and contemporary women of science that you should know:

A painting of Ada Lovelace in a historic  lace dress

The World’s first programmer

Ada Lovelace is known as history’s first programmer. However, it would take a while for Ada to be recognized as the genius she was, since computer programming didn’t drift into the mainstream for many years to come. Today Ada Lovelace is recognized for her work as a pioneer in the field of computer programming, and to this day with an official ANSI and ISO Standard language named Ada.

Image of Dr. Asima Chatterjee speaking into a microphone

The first female scientist to be awarded a PhD in India

Asima Chatterjee’s area of interest was organic chemistry and over the course of her career she achieved many honors, including being awarded a Doctor of Science by the University of Calcutta in 1944, and winning India’s most prestigious science award in 1961 — the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize — for her achievements in phytomedicine. Only 14 years later another woman would be awarded the prize again.

Photography of Margherita Hack in front of a big telescope

The first woman to direct an astronomical observatory in Italy

In 1964 Italian astrophysicist Margherita Hack was appointed Full Professor of Astronomy at the University of Trieste, as well as Director of the Astronomical Observatory of Trieste — becoming the first woman in Italy to hold such position in this field.

Photography of Mae C. Jemison posing in her orange NASA spacesuit

The first African American woman to travel in space

NASA Astronaut, engineer and physician Mae C. Jemison was the first African American woman to travel in space. She was a crewmember of NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992, and led experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness in space.

Black & white photo of Elsie MacGill holding and  inspecting a metal tube.

The world’s first female aeronautical engineer

Elsie MacGill was the first woman to ever earn an aeronautical engineering degree (Toronto, 1929). Even while battling challenges — both personal and professional — she accumulated a unique list of more “firsts”: the first Canadian woman to obtain an electrical engineering degree (Toronto, 1927), the first woman to design an aircraft, and the first woman to be accepted into the Engineering Institute of Canada.

Get inspired by many more women and girls in science on our Women in Culture hub and browse further to explore other fields beyond science in which female trailblazers made an impact; from civil rights to sports, from arts to fashion and much more on Google Arts & Culture and on our iOS and Android App.

If you know a woman in science, today is the day to celebrate them — although everyday should offer an opportunity to appreciate and highlight the achievements of women in the workplace and beyond. Check out the #IamRemarkable project to get inspired on how to make their voices heard.

Let’s stay in touch. Get the latest news from Google in your inbox.