The Top Women Innovators of All Time!

By Ignite Innovation Forum Guest, Author Scott Berkun
SEATTLE, March 8, 2013 –  Innovation

In honor of International Women’s day here’s a list of my favorite female innovators of all time.

Historical note: what’s most disturbing in the history of all innovation is how unfair history has been to women. It’s hard to identify a singular cause but there’s evidence the shift to monotheism changed what had been a more balanced view of power, when there was still respect for male and female powers, into masculine centric cultures (See The Alphabet vs. The Goddess). Even by the time of the Western Enlightenment, women were still given few opportunities to study, work in pioneering fields or to receive acclaim for their work. It’d be wrong to blame monotheism alone, but its negative influence on opportunities for women is clear.

The ancient Greeks, who were progressive on many fronts, had few female philosophers and scholars, although there were some. Among the better known is  Hypatia, but few works from the time survived and it’s hard to know how much influence she had.


  • Marie Curie – First person in history to win two Nobel Prizes (only other person to do it was Linus Pauling). She also defined the theory of radioactivity, a discovery she died for. Her life story of fleeing Poland for France, helping her family, and charitable works is awe inspiring. She discovered two elements and developed the first treatments using radioactive isotopes.
  • Georgia Okeefe The movements of her creative work over a prolific lifetime are comparable to Picasso’s in many ways. She was the first woman to have a solo show at The MOMA in NYC (1946).
  • Jane Austen – Helped define the style and structure of the modern novel and is one of the most popular writers in history.
  • Susan B. Anthony – A relentless advocate for equal rights for women, she wrote, lectured and organized groups in the pursuit of voting and other rights. She was arrested, in an act of civil disobedience, for voting in the 1872 U.S. presidential election. She died 14 years before the 19th U.S. Amendment was passed, granting voting rights to women.
  • Indira Ghandi became prime minister of India in 1966, second woman head of state in modern history, the first was  Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka (1960). Indira had an enormous impact on the future of India, defining many policies and systems of government still in use today.
  • Florence Nightingale – More than a nurse, she pioneered the use of statistics and visualizations (Nightingale Rose Diagram) and was a prolific writer and teacher. Medicine has been a productive field for women, with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (contributed to discovery of HIV), Gertrude B. Elion (pioneer in cancer medication, Nobel Prize in Medicine 1988) and Clara Barton (founded the Red Cross) and Elizabeth Blackwell – First woman to receive a medical degree (1849) and become a doctor in the U.S.
  • Grace Hopper invented not only the progamming language COBOL but the very idea of a compiler (1952). And if that weren’t enough she was an Admiral in the Navy.
  • Ada Lovelace – The first computer programmer in history. She is possibly an example of historic gender bias, as some of the work Babbage is credited with possibly should be attributed to her, although the history from the time leaves many questions about who did what, as the work they were doing was of interest to few at the time.
Read more at Scott’s Blog…

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