When you hear the word scientist it is quite likely that you begin to think of names such as Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin or Issac Newton. Indeed, all these scientists have made great contributions to science and have helped shaped the world as we know it today.
However, it is important that we also pay homage to the women who made vital impacts in all areas science. It is unfortunate that many of these women went unappreciated due their gender and more unfortunate still that the contributions of many will probably be lost for ever.
In honour of International Day of Women and Girls in Science on the 11th of February let us remember these legendary figures; the women of the women in science who changed the world with their thinking and inventions.
Lady Ada Lovelace is considered by many to be the first ever computer programmer. Born in 1815 in London (daughter of Lord Byron) she is regarded to have been well ahead of her time. Through her collaboration with Charles Babbage, she created the very first computer algorithm.
Fascinated by his work, Lovelace was inspired to further develop the concept of the analytical engine. She died of uterine cancer in 1852 at the age of 36 after achieving an incredible amount in her lifetime.
Marie Curie was born in 1876 in Poland and is renowned for her extensive work on radioactivity. Alongside her husband Pierre Curie, they researched radioactivity and this led to the discovery of polonium and radium. Marie Curie become the first women to ever win a Nobel Prize, claiming victory in Physics in 1903 with her husband Pierre and Henri Becquerel.
After this she went on to win a second Nobel Prize as a solo winner in Chemistry in 1911. This made her the first person in history to have been awarded twice. Initially Marie was not included in the 1903 prize listing but her husband was furious and wrote to the awarding committee insisting that she be included. Thankfully this was rectified.
She died in 1934, aged 66 due to radiation exposure.
You may recognise the name Katherine Johnson from the film Hidden Figures.
Born in West Virginia in 1918, her work for NASA proved vital in sending the first American astronauts into space. As an African American woman, she battled constant racism and prejudice in the workplace but she did not let this stop her. Johnson’s work went unnoticed by the vast majority of the world until recently when in 2015 when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
She passed away in February 2020 aged 101.
Rosalind Franklin was born in 1920 in London and went on to become a chemist and X-ray crystallographer (study of arrangement and bonding of atoms in crystalline solids). She faced constant sexism when working as her male counterparts did not believe she was their equal. Instead, she was often viewed as inferior and had to fight for respect. Her work was crucial in identifying the structure of D.N.A.
She died in 1958 aged 37. Four years later her male colleagues went on to win a Nobel Prize.
Vera Rubin was born in 1928 in Philadelphia, USA. She became interested in astronomy from a very young age, building her first telescope at 14. Rubin went on to confirm dark matter which many consider to be one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. She was rewarded with honorary degrees from various universities such as Harvard and Yale. Many predicted that she would win the Nobel prize for her outstanding work in astrophysics but sadly she was overlooked.
She died in 2016 aged 88.
Whenever you run into an obstacle of any kind remind yourself of these amazing women. Just like them, do not let anyone or anything stop you from achieving your dreams. Go out there and prove to yourself and the world that you to are extraordinary.
“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
– Mae Jemison, first African American woman astronaut in space.