Celebrating women’s achievements

Today is International Women’s Day to celebrate the achievements of women across the world during the ages. So I will not digress on unpleasant experiences (due to achievements), but I will highlight some positive aspects.

Aside from a list of famous women in history that spans a range of areas also beyond science and engineering (heads of state, philosophy, movie directors etc.):

  • From the science perspective, there’s the list of Female Nobel Laureates, including the latest addition (2008) with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi in Physiology or Medicine and the, thus far, unbeatable Marie Curie with two prizes in different disciplines (1903 and 1911 in Physics and Chemistry, respectively) whilst raising a Nobel Prize-winning daughter (Irène Joliot-Curie, Chemistry 1935). More notable female scientist are listed for the physical science and life science and medicine, among the many sources.
  • From the International Women’s Day website, there are interesting bits of information about women in Business/Finance, Arts, and Innovation, among others. Women do not lack engineering creativity: among others, Josephine Cochran presented the first dishwasher at the World Fair 1893, Mary Anderson got her patent for windshield wipers in 1903, Kevlar was patented by Stephanie Kwolek in 1966, and last, but not least, the world’s first computer programmer and inventor of its programming language to get Babbage’s machine to do something, Ada Lovelace.

More recently than Ada Lovelace, we have other famous women in computing such as Grace Hopper and Anita Borg. Maybe I should make a list of currently living notable women in AI and its applications. For instance, Manuela Veloso has won Robocup several times thanks to both significant theoretical and engineering contributions, Ulrike Sattler and Deborah McGuinness in Description Logics, Sylvie Spreeuwenberg as cofounder of the company Librt on business rules, Carole Goble as e-science manager, and Midori Harris as principal curator of the Gene Ontology.

But I do not know intimately all sub-areas in AI, let alone the whole of computer science and engineering; you have any suggestions to include in the list?

UPDATE (11-3-2009): Rina Dechter in automated reasoning, Francesca Rossi on constraints, and Gigina Aiello in KR, planning and robotics. Barbara Liskov for her achievements in programming language design  (and more, see also the Turing Award 2008 press release).


3 responses to “Celebrating women’s achievements

  1. Lists as such are always difficult and biased by one’s selection criteria, I am afraid. Anyhow, if the criterion is the high (but w.r.t what?) number of positions in committees, honors received, scientific productivity, etc., then you can add Rina Dechter and Francesca Rossi, to name two, to your AI list. However, as said, much depends on one’s selection criteria :-). Cheers, R

  2. Hi Rosella,

    Thank you for the names, I have added them to the post.

    There is indeed the aspect of criteria: with the people I included, I had cast the net widely in the hope (illusion?) that it would tickle readers’ brains and make it easier to set up a list of notable women in AI and its applications. But it did not yet result in the desired effect…
    But let us assume it would have had, then it would also be interesting to see what other people consider important selection criteria, and if they’re fairly consistent in that. Conversely, if there are no selection criteria emerging, then there will always be people saying that “what she did does not count as sufficiently impressive” (facilitating measureing with two sticks and all that) and thinking they’re justified in that opinion (against which it is not easy to argue).


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