Column: Todmorden U3A - Women who had made an impact in the last century

​Our guest speaker in March was Barrie J Yates who presented 'The Magnificent Seven' - women who had made an impact in the last century and more.
​Hedy Lamarr in 1944.​Hedy Lamarr in 1944.
​Hedy Lamarr in 1944.

​Rosalind Franklin, born in 1920, was the first person to identify the double helix, the physical structure of DNA. Her vital contribution and involvement wasn't acknowledged until years later.

Marie Curie, born in 1867 in Warsaw, began her practical scientific training before moving to Paris. She won two Nobel prizes; for developing the theory of Radioactivity, and for discovering Plutonium and Uranium. She died in 1934 after being exposed to the materials she had discovered.

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Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian born American film actress and inventor, devised and patented 'Frequency Hopping ' to disrupt and counter the use of German torpedoes to destroy shipping. Her patent was seized by the US government, despite her raising millions of dollars in war bonds.

Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, was the daughter of Lord Byron. Gifted with ability in maths and logic, at 17 she met Charles Babbage. She recognised that computers could do much more than calculate numbers. Her work and research has subsequently led to inventions such as smartphones. A compulsive gambler, she sadly died from cancer aged 36.

Beatrice Schilling, a keen motorcyclist and engineer, invented a device which prevented the engines of Spitfires from stalling during dogfights in the Second World War. The device could be fitted without taking the planes out of service, which contributed to the RAF winning the Battle of Britain.

Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia, served in the Second World War as a ferry pilot, delivering aircraft from factory to airbase. She died on one of these missions in January 1941 when her plane went down over the Thames estuary. It was later claimed that it had been shot down in error.

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Finally, Gertrude Bell, born in 1868, who was the first woman to achieve a degree in Modern History, and the first to cross Arabia. She was heavily involved in negotiations and nation building at the end of the First World War.

The next Todmorden U3A Monthly Members Meeting will be on Thursday, April 20 open to all fully paid-up members at the Central Methodist Hall,Todmorden. The speaker is Susan Rogers, with ‘Easter island’. Contact details:; [email protected]

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