Science has long been considered the realm of men. Except that women have very quietly (and not so demurely) been smashing glass ceilings and making ground breaking discoveries for centuries.
Today, let’s celebrate Women’s History Month with fabulous ladies of science.
For any woman who has ever had a child post-1949, you know the Apgar test administered at birth to test the health and vitality of the baby. I bet you didn’t know that a woman created the test though!
Virginia Apgar was the first woman to be named a full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians. Prior to the acceptance of this system, up to 30% of children died before their first birthday.
One of my very favorite podcasts, Stuff You Missed in History Class, covered Dr. Apgar a few months ago in a fabulous episode. I had no idea that a woman had transformed the birthing experience!
In the 1980s, HIV was sweeping through the world as a mysterious and deadly disease of unknown origin or cause. Working at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Maryland, Flossie Wong-Staal was working to help unravel the mystery.
In 1983, she was part of the team that helped to pinpoint the virus that causes the disease. In 1985, Flossie was the first scientist to clone HIV, leading to DNA mapping of the virus and helping to develop blood tests to identify it. She continues to be a major influencer in the HIV/AIDS medical community, working with the Center for AIDS Research and as the chief scientist of Genomics at Immusol.
Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood icon, and groundbreaking scientist. After gaining international film fame in her native Austria, she fled the Nazis by immigrating to the US in the 1930s. She continued to act in many Hollywood films.
In 1942, Hedy worked with her friend, George Antheil, on a groundbreaking radio communication system. Essentially, the system they developed involved switching radio signals to prevent people from breaking communication codes. Originally designed to thwart the Nazis, the true significance of this invention wasn’t fully understood until decades later. Lamarr and Antheil were recognized for their contributions in 1997.
Silent Spring opened the eyes of the American public to the consequences of the wide use of chemical pesticides, like DDT. Rachel Carson was an ecologist long before the 1962 publication of her best known book, and she wrote several books on the ocean and seas in the 1940s and 1950s.
However, her enduring legacy continues to be the questions posed in Silent Spring. Rachel asked readers to consider the long term risks and consequences of chemical pesticides, both on humans and on the natural systems around us. She has been an instrumental influence on our current ecological policies.
Mae C. Jemison
In 1992, Mae Jemison literally rocketed into history as the first African-American woman to go to space! After earning her undergrad degree in chemical engineering, Mae went on to earn her MD from Cornell University. In 1987, Mae became the first African-American female to be admitted to NASA’s astronaut training program.
Mae finally flew into space on the Endeavour in 1992. While in space, she conducted experiments in weightlessness and motion sickness. Following her tenure in the astronaut corps, Mae accepted a professorship at Dartmouth College.
Women have made a huge difference in the scientific community through their tireless work and dedication. From famous firsts to important medical breakthroughs, women have done it all.
How will you include female scientists in your teaching and learning this month?
Photo Credits (as required):
- Dr. Virginia Apgar welcoming world’s newest guest / World Journal Tribune photo by Al Ravenna. (1966) October 2. [Image] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2002712240