Thanks to the women’s liberation movement, female scientists are commonplace these days. Dive back more than 30 years and you will find that certainly isn’t the case! Most of the world’s most significant discoveries were made by men. However, there are female scientists who—despite gender barriers—went on to create some life-changing inventions. Here are seven you can teach your kids about!
I just couldn’t kick off a female scientists list without honoring Marie Curie first. Aged 24 in 1891, she left her home country Poland to study in Paris. Through her research, she developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes! During WWI she opened radiology centers that catalyzed medicine worldwide. Thanks to Marie Curie, we have seen great advances in therapeutic radiology over the last century!
When it came to pioneering women in medicine, Elizabeth Blackwell wasn’t just the first woman to become an MD in the U.S., she became the first registered female doctor in the UK! Elizabeth’s entry into medicine was apparently inspired by a family friend’s traumatic experience with uterine cancer. This friend told her she’d have felt more comfortable with a female physician. Blackwell wasn’t initially struck by the idea, but she later changed her mind. When it came to receiving lectures on reproductive anatomy, Elizabeth refused to listen to those who didn’t want a lady being exposed to such vulgarities. There was a whole lot of patriarchy for Elizabeth to break through in the 19th century, but she certainly managed it!
Rosalind Franklin is something of an unsung heroine in the world of DNA discovery. Sure, Watson and Crick were the ones who discussed and researched the unraveling of the DNA helix. It was Rosalind, however, who imaged this unraveling for the men to discuss it. Without her dedication and attention to detail, it may have been a very long time before we benefited from DNA knowledge. Discoveries like that only come about once in a lifetime!
Sometimes the scientific world thinks it has found the Holy Grail of disease prevention. In the 1940s and 50s, that holy grail was DDT! DDT was at the forefront of malaria prevention campaigns, but was at times largely ignored by the World Health Organization, leading to massive setbacks. By the time the WHO did realize DDT’s potential, it was spraying it everywhere and anywhere. Carson was the scientist who promoted the idea that DDT wasn’t so safe, as it affected humans too. Sadly, she died of breast cancer before her research had an impact on DDT usage.
It’s time to take my love for female scientists back a few thousand years. Hypatia of Alexandria was kicking ass in the science field around the same time as Hypocrites and all those other amazing Greek pioneers. Her dad was quite the mathematician, so she followed in his footsteps by publishing works on astronomy and physics. Tragically, Hypatia was set upon by a Christian mob who believed she was guilty of heresy. It wasn’t easy being a clever woman in the ancient times, not at all.
Like Hypatia of Alexandria, Shirley Ann Jackson faced discrimination. Unlike Hypatia, this wasn’t just because she was female, her race had an impact too. When she attended MIT in 1964, there were fewer than 20 African American students there. She went on to become the first woman of color to achieve her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the institution. In 1995, she went on to become the first woman on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as appointed by President Clinton.
Mary Anning was a pioneering female paleontologist. Her entry into paleontology began with digging up fossils to sell to rich men to feed her family. Guess they weren’t all as enthusiastic as Ross from Friends back then! Mary began discovering different types of dinosaurs, which made a massive contribution to the theory of extinction! Around the time of her death, very few people paid homage to Mary’s intellect.
Over the course of history there has been some astounding female scientists! Many have been overshadowed by the discoveries of others, and so they died before knowing how much of an impact their discoveries would have. Thanks to historians, we know more than ever. If you have a female scientist you share with your kids, who is she?
Please rate this article