In her most recent book “Invisible Women” Caroline Criado Perez demonstrates how the world’s development is shaped by men, neglecting women’s contributions along the way. Caroline based her theory on several studies and inquiries that conclude that all the different areas of our daily lives are addressed to men by default. From these perspectives (from public institutions and acts to the standard height of shelves at work), it is evident that there is a wide range of things that undermine women in general – particularly women in science – that we do not realize.
In the academic and scientific fields, gender inequalities are, likewise, real. The field’s higher positions – namely STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) – are dominantly occupied by the middle/upper-class white man (Invisible Women, Carolina Criado Perez, p. xx). Scientific publications in magazines of scientific interest determine the career progression in this field. However, women tend to face more obstacles to publishing scientific articles than men, when the arbitrary process is not anonymous. Several studies prove that women’s work is preferred to men’s work when the review process is anonymous.
We should recognize and celebrate the legacy of women on scientific achievements. Here are 4 great women who made a lasting mark in the field of Science.
Alice Ball (1892-1916) – Cure for Leprosy
Unknown author on Science Focus
Alice Ball was the first woman to receive a master’s from the University of Hawaii and went on to become the university’s first female chemistry professor. The American chemist developed a revolutionary treatment for leprosy, a fatal disease that had once forced victims into exile.
While working as a research assistant at the Kalihi Hospital in Hawaii, Ball designed an injectable form of chaulmoogra oil. This chaulmoogra oil significantly increased the patients’ reaction to the treatment.
Before Ball’s discovery, the oil’s application method was difficult for patients to ingest or apply topically. It was also too thick to inject.
This achievement ultimately saved countless lives and became the best treatment for leprosy until the 1940s. It wasn’t until the 21st century that her achievements were fully recognized, with the governor of Hawaii declaring 29th February “Alice Ball Day.”
Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994) – Insulin Treatment for Diabetes
Getty Images on Science Focus
In 1964, Hodgkin became the first and only British woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This is for her determination by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances.
Throughout her career, Dorothy Hodgkin made an impressive number of revelations. These include the atomic structure of penicillin, the structure of vitamin B12, and the structure of insulin. Additionally, as she dedicated a lot of time to improving X-ray crystallography techniques, Hodgkin was also able to complete her innovative research on insulin and improve treatments for diabetes.
In 1965, she won the UK’s prestigious Order of Merit. While Hodgkin was a professor at Oxford University, she even mentored Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Lise Meitner (1878-1968) – Nuclear Physics
Bettmann/Getty Images on Science Focus
Lise Meitner was the first woman to become a physics professor in Germany. She had contributed significant advancements to the field of nuclear physics. Her work was crucial for her collaborator, Otto Hahn, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944. Some scientists argued later that she should have won the Nobel Prize as well. As it was unfair the Committee did not recognize her important contribution.
Meitner was also an advocate for the peaceful use of atomic energy. She even refused to work on the “Manhattan Project” due to her strong beliefs against atomic bombs.
Today, there are numerous prestigious awards in physics named in honor of Meitner. She even has a chemical element – meitnerium – named after her.
Rosalind Franklin – Contributed to the Discovery of the Structure of DNA
Universal History Archive/UIG on Science Focus
Rosalind Franklin, born in 1920 in Notting Hill, was a chemist. She made impressive discoveries while she was investigating the properties of carbon. In 1942, she brought her physics and chemistry expertise to London Coal, which was central to the war effort, with its reliance on coal and carbon for strategic equipment like gas masks. This research was the basis of her Ph.D. thesis at Cambridge.
Franklin discovered two forms of DNA and received a three-year scholarship in 1950 to undertake further investigation at King’s College, London. She surmised the basic dimensions of DNA strands and their helical structure. She also discovered that DNA structure changes when exposed to high moisture levels.
Sadly, in March 1958, Rosalind passed away at the age of 37 from several illnesses, including ovarian cancer. In 1962, James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for solving the structure of DNA. Watson suggested that Rosalind and Wilkins should also receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, but the Nobel Committee did not make a posthumous designation.
Tu Youyou (1930-present) – New Treatment for Malaria
Unknown author on Delphi Pages
Pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou’s disclosure of a new malaria treatment has saved millions of lives. She studied traditional Chinese and herbal medicines and won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery. Essentially, she had discovered a reference in ancient medical texts for using sweet wormwood to treat intermittent fevers, a symptom of malaria.
Jane Goodall (1934 – present) – Primatologist Who Changed Our Understanding of Chimpanzees
Penelope Breese/Liaison/Getty Images on Science Focus
At the age of 23, Jane Goodall boarded into a journey to Kenya. Here she would have met the renowned anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis S B Leakey. They started an investigation of wild chimpanzees in Gombe, and Goodall’s compassionate nature gained her the chimpanzees’ trust. Therefore, she was able to witness them eating meat and using tools. These are behaviours that disproved the existing assumption that chimpanzees were vegetarian, for instance.
Despite not having a degree, Goodall defied the odds to accomplish a Ph.D. in 1965. Although many scholars undermined her credibility, her prestige and success earned her funds from National Geographic to establish the Gombe Stream Research Centre.
“Upon learning of the deforestation and cruelty devastating global wildlife, Dr. Goodall turned her experienced hand to conservation and now travels extensively, inspiring the next generation to proactively safeguard endangered wildlife” – Science Focus.
By doing this research, I had found out a lot of impressive accomplishments done by remarkable women. In fact, these types of scientific advances are often undermined by public opinion, especially if they are realized by women. In most of the cases, these women had sacrificed their personal sphere over a bigger aim: Science!
We should acknowledge their important work and celebrate their legacy every day! Besides celebrating women in science, we should encourage women in general. Be a feminist!