Famous Women in STEM: A History

07/15/2013 05:15 EDT | Updated 09/14/2013 05:12 EDT

There are many findings that discuss how STEM -- Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics -- are some important factors that we need to prepare our kids for. These topics are the innovative studies that our future generation will need in order to prepare them for jobs that may not even exist. I totally agree, hence why we see many people want to get involved with hEr VOLUTION, wanting to support girls and young women to enter in the STEM fields.

Although it seems that we are moving towards innovation to better understand STEM-based literacy we need to take a look back at our past innovators that have opened the roads to today's innovation. There is a lot that this generation is not familiar with in order to appreciate the beginning of it all. Just as everything in life has had a beginning, so did STEM education. The trailblazers that have had innovative minds and decided to put ground-breaking ideas into practice, deserve to be recognized for their efforts in changing our lives forever.

When we look back in time we remember some pioneers who are studied in school because of the marks they have left behind. Remember Albert Einstein, Alfred Nobel, Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton or Leonardo da Vinci? It is most likely that you have read about them in books and your teacher mentioned them and made you study them in school, not too long ago. It goes without saying that they have made history! The question remains, what happened to the women in STEM that have also made a difference in our lives from centuries ago? Why are they not mentioned and focused on as much in our kid's books and why is it not part of STEM education? It is imperative to have these women featured and brought to light especially now when so many girls are trying to fit in and look for role models to follow in these fields.

I have decided to feature a few trailblazers who are and need to be used as role models in the STEM sector:

Cleopatra the Alchemist -- Contrary to popular belief, Cleopatra was not a character which now used on romance novels but a third or fourth century Egyptian alchemist and author. The dates of her life and death are unknown, but she was active in Alexandria in the third or the fourth century. According to Medieval Arabic text books, Cleopatra was a brilliant early mathematician, chemist and philosopher who wrote science books. "Above all, Cleopatra was an alchemist," El Daly told Discovery News. "She invented a tool to analyze liquids. Also, she was not working in a vacuum. There is ample evidence that many women in ancient Egypt served as doctors and were educated in the sciences."

Hypatia of Alexandria was the first woman to make a substantial contribution to the development of mathematics. There is no evidence that Hypatia undertook original mathematical research. Hypatia symbolized learning and science. According to the Suda lexicon, Hypatia wrote commentaries on the Arithmetica of Diophantus of Alexandria, on the Conics of Apollonius of Perga, and on the astronomical canon of Ptolemy. Although her work is lost the titles remain well known in the astronomy and mathematics scholarly studies of philosophy and science.

Emilie du Chatelet -- During her academic work, Du Châtelet focused on natural philosophy, particularly that of Newton, Leibniz and Christian Wolff. Her highly developed skill in physics and mathematics has particularly influenced her capably to write about Newton's physics. She was not interested in physics alone as she was directly responsible for the tradition of natural philosophy while sought a metaphysical basis for the Newtonian physics as she embraced upon rejecting Cartesianism.

Hildegard of Bingen -- also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. Besides focusing on writing theological texts, she also spent time on wiring botanical and medicinal texts. Some of her work on musical, literary, and scientific writings are currently found in two manuscripts: the Dendermonde manuscript and the Riesenkodex. Because of her interest in healing and her belief that all things put on earth are to be used by humans, Hildegard wrote a text on the natural sciences named Physica, as well as Causae et Curae. Hildegard of Bingen was well known for her healing powers involving practical application of tinctures, herbs, and precious stones. Hildegard is also known for inventing the alternative alphabet.

Wang Zhenyi -- She studied mathematics focusing on trigonometry while became interested in lunar eclipses. Two of her known published works deemed to be highly accurate when she described how, according to astronomica principles, the lunar eclipse occurred ('On the Explanation of the Lunar Eclipse'). The other published work, ('Of the Ball-Shaped Earth'), focused on describing why people would not fall off a spherical Earth while attempted to describe the cosmos and the relationship of the Earth within it. Wang Zhenyi is also a pioneer in defending women's rights to studying.

There are far more women that deserve mention, and, during hEr VOLUTION's first workshop, Famous Women in STEM, A History, Enable Education focused on 12 of the many great minds of our past generation. The feedback from the parents was remarkably generous and gratifying:

How are you bringing to surface the women that have changed our lives?

Famous Women in STEM, A History