Sure, most people have heard of Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall and Sally Ride. But often most recognized and celebrated face of science has been accidentally or purposefully cast a shadow on pioneering work of many female scientists.
“Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” a beautiful new book written by Rachel Ignotofsky, highlights some of the classic women in science, but she has established the value of science by bringing some less familiar faces — and discoveries in forefront of society.
Here are a dozen of our favorites.
- Florence Bascom (1862-1945):Her love for geology helped us to understand how mountains form. She worked for the US Geographical Survey, particularly specializing in the Piedmont Plateau between the Appalachians and the Atlantic coastal plain.
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas:The value and importance of the Everglades despite finding them “too buggy, too wet, too generally inhospitable brought the ecological importance of The Everglades.” She wrote a book called “The Everglades: Rivers of Grass,” which raised awareness about the threats the ecosystem faced.
- Celia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979):After listening Arthur Eddington, a physicist, lecture she found astronomy so intriguing she changed fields was the astronomer who discovered that the sun is made of hydrogen and helium. Her dissertation was called “the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy.”
- Rita Levi-Montalcini:(1909-2012)was the first Nobel Prize winner to reach the age of 100. She discovered nerve growth factor, which guides the development of the nervous system.
- Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)grew up in China, then moved to the US for her PhD studies. She was recruited by the Manhattan Project during World War II. During her interview for the top-secret work, she was able to guess what they were researching from an equation left on a blackboard. She helped figure out how to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear bombs. She was snubbed by the Nobel Prize committee for her work showing that nature isn’t always symmetrical. (The Prize was awarded to two men who first floated the idea, even though she was the one who proved it experimentally.)
- Katherine Johnson (1918- )did the math that launched the manned Mercury mission into orbit around the Earth and calculated the flight path for the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon.
- Rosalyn Yalow(1921-2011):Developed a technique that tests for diabetes, birth defects, and the technique for studying hormones that is still used today, called radioimmunoassay.
- Esther Lederberg(1922-2006):Discovered that bacteria mutate randomly work by inventing a technique called replica plating, the technique contributed to a Nobel Prize for her husband. She also discovered a type of virus called a lambda phage.
- Annie Easley(1933-2011):Helped write the code behind the Centaur rocket system. Annie Easley planned to become a nurse, but was inspired to work for the precursor of NASA when she read an article about local twin sisters who worked there as human computers. She became first a mathematician and then a computer programmer, working particularly on the code for the Centaur rocket launcher and navigation system.
- Patricia Bath (1942- )invented a device for removing cataracts that fog people’s vision. She also created the field of community ophthamology, which combines public health outreach with ophthamology.
- May-Britt Moser (1963- )helped discover grid cells, special nerve cells in the brain that create mental maps of places we’ve been — work that won the Nobel Prize. She has also studied how the brain filters out unnecessary information to focus on particular issues and what happens when your brain thinks you’re somewhere you aren’t.
- Francoise Barre-Sinoussi (1947- )is a French scientist who helped discover HIV and determine that the virus causes AIDS. She then researched how the immune systemresponds to HIV and AIDS in hopes of finding a cure.