You may already know that we hosted a Girls In Science Photoshoot, and we are happy to say we had a great turnout! We have officially sent off a copy of the photograph along with an actual metal gauntlet (as part of our challenge) to Scientific American Magazine, in hopes that it will inspire growth in their efforts to support girls and women in science and STEM. They should be receiving the package soon… Just in time for Women’s History Month! 

It was a pleasure gathering this group of STEM-oriented girls and women (and the boys, men, and non-binary genders who support them) to send this important message to one of the world’s preeminent science magazines. As well, it is inspiring to watch them grow into the science leaders of tomorrow. We look forward to the day when some of these girls grow into the women who are celebrated during future Women’s History Months. 

So on that note, we wanted to share with you the stories of some women who helped shape the history of science:

Mary Anning (1799 – 1847)

At 11 years old, Mary Anning found herself digging up a skull and 60 vertebrae that belonged to what she thought was a crocodile. This find was no croc, though, and was eventually named Ichthyosaurus, the “fish-lizard.” Thus began Anning’s long career as a fossil hunter. In addition to ichthyosaurs, she found long-necked plesiosaurs, a pterodactyl and hundreds, possibly thousands, of other fossils that helped scientists to draw a picture of the marine world 200 million to 140 million years ago during the Jurassic. She had little formal education and so taught herself anatomy, geology, paleontology and scientific illustration. Scientists of the time traveled from as far away as New York City to Lyme Regis to consult and hunt for fossils with Anning.

Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968)

When Lise Meitner finished school at age 14, she was barred from higher education, as were all girls in Austria. But she was determined to study radioactivity. When she turned 21, women were finally allowed into Austrian universities. Two years of tutoring preceded her enrollment at the University of Vienna; there she excelled in math and physics and earned her doctorate in 1906. In Berlin, she collaborated with Otto Hahn on the study of radioactive elements, but as an Austrian Jewish woman (all three qualities were strikes against her), she was excluded from the main labs and lectures and allowed to work only in the basement. In 1912, the pair moved to a new university and Meitner had better lab facilities. Though their partnership was split up physically when she was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1938, they continued to collaborate. Meitner continued her work in Sweden and after Hahn discovered that uranium atoms were split when bombarded with neutrons, she calculated the energy released in the reaction and named the phenomenon “nuclear fission.”

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912 – 1997)

Between 1930 and 1940, Wu studied in the physics department of National Central University. After her graduation she worked as an assistant at Zhejiang University. She later became a researcher at the Institute of Physics of Academia Sinica. Wu joined the Manhattan project early in WWII. Here she helped develop the process to enrich uranium ore to produce the fuel for the atomic bomb. In 1944 she accepted a position at Columbia University where she did some research. Her research at the university helped to disprove the law of conservation of parity. This law has been assumed to be a fundamental law of nature. It stated that beta particles emitted by a radioactive nucleus would fly off in any given direction, regardless of the spin of nucleus. 

Mae C. Jemison (1956–)

Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. During her time at Morgan Park High School, she became convinced she wanted to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, and when she graduated in 1973 as a consistent honor student, she entered Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship. After she obtained her M.D. in 1981, Jemison interned at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center and later worked as a general practitioner. For the next two and a half years, she was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia where she also taught and did medical research. Following her return to the United States in 1985, Jemison made a career change and decided to follow a dream she had nurtured for a long time. In October of that year, she applied for admission to NASA’s astronaut training program. On June 4, 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates.

 

Sources: FamousFemaleScientists.com, Biography.com, SmithsonianMag.com