LGBT in STEM
Content warning: this post mentions suicide.
It’s LGBT History month here in the UK this month, so we thought we’d take a look at some truly innovative LGBT minds within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics throughout history.
Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850 – 1891)
We kick off our list with Sofia Kovalevskaya, who was a Russian mathematician who made outstanding contributions to analysis, partial differential equations and mechanics. She was also one of the first women to work for a scientific journal as an editor. In many countries, including Russia in the 1800’s, women were unable to attend university. To study abroad, Kovalevskaya had to get written permission from her father or husband. Kovalevskaya created a fictitious marriage to achieve this.
Kovalevskaya met Swedish mathematician, Gösta Mittag-Leffler, through her sister. With Gösta’s help, Sofia secured a place at Stockholm University. Sofia and Gösta would go on to have a romantic relationship which would last up until Sofia’s death in 1891.
Alan Turing (1912-1954)
Alan Turing is probably one of the biggest names when it comes to computer science and cryptology. A graduate of Cambridge and Princeton, he was most well known for helping the development of a technique to decipher encrypted German messages during World War II.
At the age of 39, Turing started a relationship with a young man by the name Arnold Murray. Not long after, but totally unrelated, Turing fell victim to a burglary at his home. When reporting the crime to a police officer, he mentioned his romantic relationship with Murray. Both Turning and Murray were charged with “gross indecency”, as homosexuality was considered a crime in England and Wales up until 1967.
After his conviction, Turing was excused from his work for the Government Communications Headquarters. In 1954, Turing was tragically found dead in his home by his housekeeper. It was suspected that he died by suicide.
Lynn Conway (1938 – Present)
Whilst American computer scientist, Lynn Conway, is known for many things, she is probably most well known for her work at IBM, the Mead & Conway revolution but also her work in trans activism. She strongly advocated for equal opportunities and employment protections for transgender people in the tech industry.
In 1968, Conway was fired from her role at IBM for being transgender, despite LGBT employment discrimination being illegal in the US under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 52 years later in 2020, IBM officially and publicly apologized to Conway.
Sophie Wilson (1957 – Present)
In 1981, British computer scientist, Sophie Wilson designed the Acorn Micro-Computer, which was the first of many computers sold by Acorn Computers Ltd. Wilson later began working for the BBC, where she produced the programming language BBC BASIC. In 2011, she was listed in Maximum PC as number 8 in an article titled “The 15 Most Important Women in Tech History”. She was also made a Commander of the British Empire in 2019.
When she’s not winning awards and honours for her contributions to tech and science, Wilson is also in charge of costume and set pieces at her local theatre group. Sophie Wilson has made our list for being a truly inspirational transwoman in tech.
Tim Cook (1960 – Present)
When you think of big names in Tech, Tim Cook is probably quite high up the list. Tim Cook joined Apple in 1998 as Senior Vice President for worldwide operations. Over the years, he climbed his way to the top where he currently sits as CEO.
Cook has stated that his leadership is focused on people, strategy, and execution, which is what makes him such a powerful leader in the tech world. Since stepping up as CEO in 2011, Apple’s charitable donations have significantly increased. Tim Cook is an all-round inspirational man.
In 2014, Cook became the first chief executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly come out as gay.
At Snowplow, we pride ourselves on our inclusivity and diversity. Whilst we’ve still got a fair way to go, we definitely believe we embrace our diversity, making Snowplow a safe and enjoyable place to work.
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