Whenever you think of scientists, whom do you think of? Albert Einstein? Right? Isaac Newton? Bingo! They are the big names, and you should certainly, consider these names first as they ended up making remarkable discoveries that changed the way the world works.
But far too often, we ignore the women in the list of greatest scientists of all time. They silently but strongly made fast strides in the world of science. And this was when there was no formal education or lucrative careers for women in science. There were too many hurdles in the way, yet they managed to overcome them. And with their passion for science, made contributions that could change the world. Take a look at some of the women who have made a difference with their inventions.
Ada Lovelace (Mathematician)
Lovelace was one of the foremost computer programmers, and we are talking about a time when there were no modern computers to boast of. She made notes on the analytical engine by Charles Babbage.
It is a general-purpose computer that is one of the first computer algorithms.
Lovelace was strongly drawn to current scientific developments and was greatly intrigued by maths. She expressed a keen interest in mathematical models for how the brain functions. What caught her attention was Babbage’s ‘Difference Engine,’ which is probably the first computer. Lovelace went ahead and explained it to the British scientific community, adding her ideas about the machine, making her notes longer than the original. Ada’s method is one of the first written computer programs.
Marie Curie (Physicist and Chemist)
Curie had several achievements to her credit that includes inventing the novel mobile X-ray unit and not to forget discovering radioactivity during World War I. With her husband, Pierre, by her side, Curie also discovered two radioactive elements, polonium and radium, and discovered key techniques for separating radioactive isotopes. No wonder she was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in the year of 1903. With her major acknowledgment in Physics, she followed it up with another award in Chemistry. Not a mean feat that and the first person to win twice.
Janaki Ammal (Botanist)
Ammal is India’s first woman plant scientist and developed many hybrid species still being cultivated today. She was a staunch voice of advocating the Indian biodiversity. She was 80 years old when she used her status as a national scientist to preserve the vibrant biodiversity hub. Now, the Silent Valley National Park in Kerala (India) remains one of the last untouched forests in the country, full of endangered orchids, macaques, and approximately thousand species of flowering plants (endemic).
Chien-Shiung Wu (Physicist)
Chien-Shiung Wu was the first scientist to hold a theory on Enrico Fermi’s radioactive beta decay. Wu is also famous for her “Wu experiment,” which brought a fresh take on physics’s parity theory. Though this discovery led to a Nobel Prize in 1957, she did not win it. Instead, it was her male counterparts who got the award, thus undermining or ignoring her contribution. Using radioactive cobalt at close to absolute zero temperature Wu’s experiments proved that though identical, nuclear particles do not always act the same way. The Nobel Prize snub did not deter Wu from making many more contributions throughout her life, making way for accolades and awards. Her 1958 research on blood sickle cell anemia also provided many answers to biological questions.
Katherine Johnson (Mathematician)
As a NASA employee, Johnson provided many calculations on orbital mechanics to help send the first American citizens into space. Everyone became aware of her contributions after her story found a mention in the best selling book Hidden Figures. Johnson is also the brains behind calculations that helped push the Project Apollo’s Lunar Module with the help of the service module and lunar-orbiting Command.
She also worked tirelessly on Earth ERTS (Resources Technology Satellite) and Space Shuttle and was the author or co-author of twenty-six research reports. Johnson bid farewell to her beloved work in 1986, after working at Langley for 33 years. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, and it is America’s highest civilian honor.
These are just a few of the numerous female scientists who made inroads into the world of science. There are so many more of them who made a significant contribution, yet the world has not given them the acknowledgment they truly deserve!