March is Women’s History Month– but today also happens to be International Women’s Day. With that said, we feel extra obligated to educate you about a few remarkable people in a piece called, The Top 7 Women in Science Who’ve Made History That You May Not Know but You Should
Tiera Guinn Fletcher (age 24) is an African American engineer who graduated from MIT in 2017 and works for Boeing. She is one of the designers and structural analysts building the Space Launch System for NASA which is set to send people to Mars. On November 8, 2018, Fletcher won the Most Promising Engineer – Industry Award at the 2019 Black Engineer of the Year Awards.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. Although her works on coal and viruses were appreciated in her lifetime, her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely recognised posthumously.
Mae C. Jemison (b. 1956) is the first African-American female astronaut. In 1992, she became the first black woman in space. Before entering the space program, she was a medical doctor who served with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia. She has also appeared as an actress in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. She is a dancer and holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities.
Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972) was a German-born American theoretical physicist. She was the second woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics, the first being Marie Curie. She studied at Johns Hopkins during the Great Depression and persisted in her studies even when no university would employ her. Of her most famous contribution to modern physics is the discovery of the nuclear shell of the atomic nucleus, for which she won the Nobel Prize in 1963.
Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner (1878-1968) finished school at age 14, but she was barred from higher education, as were all girls in Austria. But she was determined to study radioactivity and when she turned 21, women were finally allowed into Austrian universities. Meitner, Otto Hahn and Otto Robert Frisch led the small group of scientists who first discovered nuclear fission of uranium when it absorbed an extra neutron. The discovery, which eventually led to the atomic bomb, won Otto Hahn the Nobel Prize in 1944. Meitner and Otto Frisch, did not share in the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for nuclear fission as it was awarded exclusively to Hahn. Though she was overlooked by the Nobel committee, Meitner continued her atomic research in Stockholm into her 80s.
Vera Rubin (1928-2016) proved that dark matter existed in the universe by concluding that invisible gravity sources were pulling planets and stars in certain directions. She was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993 by President Clinton. The New York Times wrote after her death, “Dr. Rubin, cheerful and plain-spoken, had a lifelong love of the stars, championed women in science and was blunt about the limits of humankind’s vaunted knowledge of nature.”
Sau Lan Wu (b. 1940?) is a Chinese American particle physicist and the Enrico Fermi Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She warmed up her theatrical career by discovering charm quarks and gluons, and then really changed the entire course of scientific history by helping to discover the Higgs boson particle, which is still the subject of cutting-edge science today.