Each March, we honor the trailblazing women who left their mark on history. S&T is particularly thankful to female pioneers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, whose efforts laid the groundwork for the work we do today. I’d like to highlight a few of these individuals and share how S&T is building on their innovations.
Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and writer in 19th century England who worked closely with Charles Babbage, inventor of a mechanical general-purpose computer known as the Analytical Engine. As part of translating and augmenting an explanatory article about the Engine, Lovelace outlined how it could be used for more than straightforward calculation. In doing so, she created the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine and became the world’s first computer programmer.
Today, S&T develops algorithms for many of our efforts, including strengthening mobile phone security through continuous authentication and improving baggage screening capabilities. Incorporating algorithms into hardware or information-sharing systems can improve how quickly and effectively operators can perform tasks. This makes them an important area of development for S&T, since we want to help homeland security practitioners carry out their important responsibilities.
Hedy Lamarr started her career as an actress, then focused on scientific endeavors as World War II escalated. She worked with a composer, George Antheil, to design a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes. The system used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to overcome the threat of jamming. While the U.S. Navy didn’t adopt the technology until the 1960s, Lamarr and Antheil’s work was eventually used to create Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies. They were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
S&T is actively investigating tools and technologies to overcome the threat of electronic jamming for first responders. Reliable communication is essential to their work, and we want to help ensure they can get the right information to the right people at the right time. In July 2016, we co-hosted an electronic jamming exercise, and we have another anti-jamming session scheduled for this summer. The findings from these exercises will help responders mitigate the threat of jamming, and will carry on Lamarr and Antheil’s innovative work.
Alice Catherine Evans researched dairy science at the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the early 20th century. She published several scientific papers on the subject, and went on to discover a link between a bacteria found in cow udders that contaminated milk and caused people to get sick. It’s thanks to her work that milk pasteurization was adopted in the 1930s, greatly reducing the number of Brucellosis cases in the US.
Once completed, S&T’s National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) will study diseases that threaten American animal agriculture and public health. This research is essential given the threat posed by infectious diseases that can transfer from animal to humans. We’re partnering with several veterinary, agricultural, and animal pharmaceutical organizations to continue Evans’ work in promoting human health.
I’m grateful to these and other women who helped pave the way for much of what we do at S&T. I hope you’ll join me in honoring their important contributions this month and throughout the year.