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forerunner in the 19th century. Mathematician, Augusta Ada Byron, Countess Lovelace (1815-1852) was the first developer of conceptual programming for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. The Ada programming language in the Pentagon is named after her.

In summation, then, when we look at women’s participation in the chemical sciences, mathematics, and computer science, we are able to point to some notable women in each field, yet women’s pursuit of these fields as a profession has been affected by larger social forces. In mathematics, women had access to the field as a recreation and to study mathematics at universities in England. The chemical sciences’ resource-intensive nature of work stood as a barrier to women’s participation. When employers had labor shortages, such as during the First World War, women chemists were able to locate work. But when they were no longer needed, women were pushed out of the laboratory. Finally, some elements of computer science are like mathematics with a lower need for expensive resources, so it is a field that could have been able to attract women who could have been inspired by the achievements of women like Grace Hopper and Ada Byron.

So far, our emphasis has been on notable women in chemistry, computer science, and mathematics in the developed world, specifically, Europe and North America. When we turn our attention to developing a history of these fields and women’s participation in the developing world, there are many challenges. Much literature is from Western Europe and North America therefore there is a need to engage with multilingual literature for broader global coverage. Furthermore, science is in the early stages of development in many developing countries, therefore information can be difficult to locate. In addition, the colonial past and path to independence hold many implications for women’s participation in science. There is a body of work about women’s participation in agriculture that was impacted by colonial processes and that, now, has provided a backdrop against which women become involved in science. Finally, the chemical industry, which is capital-intensive, has also been rather mobile in the 20th century. Hence, as the capital resources for the chemical sciences move to new locations, new labor forces must be developed. In such cases, there is a need to consider the interaction of gender within contexts.


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Costa, S. 2000. The Ladies’ Diary: Society, Gender and Mathematics in England, 1704-1754. Ph.D. dissertation. Cornell University.

Costa, S. 2002. The Ladies’ Diary: gender, mathematics and civil society in early eighteenth-century England. Osiris 17 (2nd series): 49-73.

Etzkowitz, H. April 2009. Vanish box. Online. Research EU: the Magazine of the European Research Area. Available at en.html. Accessed March 20, 2011. For his forthcoming book with Marina Ranga, see

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