Women In Science!

In celebration of both International Women’s Day and the start of British Science Week (8th-17th March), today I’m making a post dedicated to and appreciating women in science.

 

In the 19th century, women were excluded from formal scientific education but later on in the century, there was a rise of women’s colleges, providing scientific jobs and educational opportunities for women scientists. Also in the late 19th century, on November 7th 1967, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win the award twice. As of 2018, 51 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize. (This could actually be a higher number as you’ll see if you continue reading.)

Women in science has greatly motivated and inspired me to work in science and get involved in that community. I bought a book, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofksy, entitled Women In Science, which is a collection of pages dedicated to the work and achievements of different women in science, so I picked eleven to share with you today!

 

Hypatia – Astronomer, Mathematician and Philosopher

Image result for hypatiaHypatia was one of the earliest recorded female mathematicians, born between 350 and 370 CE in Alexandria, Egypt. Her father, Theon, a famous scholar, instructed her in maths and astronomy and she became an expert in both. She was one of Alexandria’s first female teachers and people travelled from faraway lands to listen to her speak. However, the religious tensions in the area became violent and she was killed around 415 CE, due to her ‘pagan’ teachings, by extremist Christians. Hypatia is a symbol for education in the face of ignorance.

 

Elizabeth Blackwell – Doctor

Elizabeth Blackwell set  herself on the path to becoming the first female medical doctor in the Related imageUnited States. She was accepted into Geneva Medical college but had to sit separately from the male students and even the teachers were embarrassed by her presence in the anatomy classes. She made her thesis on good hygiene and how that can prevent the spread of typhus. In 1849, she graduated first in her class. With her sister, they opened the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children in 1857, where they treated the poor and taught female medical students and nurses and later, in 1968, went on to found the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary, and the London School of Medicine for Women, in 1874. She made it possible for women to become doctors and called for better hygiene standards in hospitals and homes.

 

Nettie Stevens – Geneticist 

Image result for nettie stevensStevens worked hard to save up money for her undergraduate education at Stanford University and PhD at Bryn Mawr College. She was a geneticist and found male insects had an XY chromosome shape but females had XX. She published her groundbreaking research in 1905, which changed many misconceptions like the sex of a baby was determined by what the pregnant mother ate. However, around the same time of her discovery, Edmund and Wilson made the same discovery of XY chromosomes and Edmund was awarded the Nobel Prize. Nonetheless, she will not be forgotten for her amazing research.

 

Mary Agnes Chase – Botanist and Suffragist

Mary was born in 1869 and enjoyed learning about botany, sketching plants and using her savings to take botany classes at the University of Chicago and Lewis Institute. She worked with Reverend Ellsworth Jerome Hill as he mentored her and she illustrated plants for his papers, which eventually landed her a job at Chicago Field Museum, where she was a scientific illustrator for museum publications and then, an illustrator for the US Department of Agriculture in 1903. Despite all this, another amazing thing she did was protest for women’s rights to vote in the US, even though she was at threat of being fired. She participated in hunger strikes, was jailed but helped to gain the right for women to vote in 1920.

 

Lise Meitner – Physicist 

Meitner was born in Vienna in 1878 and worked at a Chemistry Institute in Berlin in 1907, after receiving her PhD, but as she was a woman, she was unpaid and wasn’t even allowed to use the labs or toilets so did her radiochemistry research in a basement. She worked with another scientist, Otto Hahn, as they tried to create new elements but with the Nazi’s rise to power, Lise fled to Sweden since she was Jewish but exchanged letters to Otto about their research. Lise ended up discovering nuclear fission but was unable to return to Germany so Otto was awarded a Nobel Prize for their work without her.

 

Alice Ball – Chemist

In 1915, Alice Ball became the first African-American and first woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii. At age 23, Alice developed a way to isolate ethyl esters in it’s fatty acids, found in chaulmoogra oil, to blend with water for injection as a treatment for leprosy. Those suffering with leprosy, at the time, were arrested and isolated but due to Alice’s treatment, the ‘Ball Method’, they were freed from exile. She found a cure for a what was thought of as a hopeless disease.

 

Gerty Cori – Biochemist

Gerty Cori became a biochemist at the University of Prague and received a doctorate in medicine. This is when she met Carl Cori, who she fell in love with and married. Not only did they become partners in life but also partners in science as they worked together and solved the mystery of how cells us sugar for energy (now called the Cori Cycle). They both shared a Nobel Prize, in 1947, but Gerty soon developed a bone marrow disease as she continued to work in the lab. Carl ended up carrying her to get around when she got too weak and she died in 1957.

 

Joan Beauchamp Procter – Zoologist

Joan was a zoologist, who endured chronic ill health. She kept snakes, frogs and crocodiles as pets and started working at the British Museum, in 1917, as an assistant keeper of reptiles and fish. She then became the London Zoo’s curator of reptiles, in 1923, and discovered a new species called the Peninsula Dragon lizard. She built houses for the reptiles specifically for them to make them feel comfortable and made it seem like their natural habitats with help from her artistic talents. Under her care, the reptiles lived longer in captivity than ever before. Her health, however, caught up with her and she made her way around in a wheelchair with her pet Komodo Dragon on a leash. She died at the age of 34.

 

Mamie Phipps Clark – Psychologist and Civil Rights Activist

Racial segregation meant Mamie wasn’t allowed in shops owned by white people and had to attend poorly funded black-only schools. She met her husband and future partner in psychology at Howard University, where she learnt psychology could be used to prove segregation is wrong. Mamie and her husband conducted the Doll Experiment, travelling the country and comparing responses of children from segregated and integrated schools. They found evidence that segregation damaged children and caused self-hate and this was used in the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in public schools.

 

Rosalind Franklin – Chemist and X-Ray Crystallographer

Rosalind’s father disapproved of women going to  university but she went anyway and earned a PhD in physical chemistry from Cambridge University. She spent hours, at King’s College, using X-rays on fibres of DNA, capturing a famous photo providing DNA is a double helix. James Watson and Francis Crick were also trying to figure out the structure and peeked at Rosalind’s work without permission, using her findings to publish their work. She was not credited in their work and they won the a Nobel Prize four years after she died from cancer in 1958. Watson wrote jeering comments about Rosalind in his book, The Double Helix, and admitted to looking at her data. We remember her as the woman, who should have won the Nobel Prize.

 

Valentina Tereshkova – Engineer and Cosmonaut

Valentina dreamed of exploring the world but her family was so poor they couldn’t afford bread. When the space race began between the US and USSR, where she was born, the USSR wanted to be the first to send a woman to space and since Valentina was in a parachute club, she was a perfect candidate. She was selected to compete with four other women and the training was intense but she was eventually chosen as the first woman in space. Valentina flew by herself on the Vostok VI shuttle in 1963 and orbited Earth 48 times, which set a new record. Her photographs in space helped us gain a better understanding of the atmosphere. She had a very bumpy ride back, nauseated and disoriented, but she earned a doctorate in engineering and worked closely with the cosmonaut programme after her trip. She now works for world peace. She is an amazing example that women are strong and tough.

 

It was very difficult having to pick a small amount of women from the Women In Science book. I highly recommend reading it as it is filled with such inspiring women from marine biologists to inventors and neuroscientists to psychoanalysts. A lot of these women were not only scientists but also film actresses, senators, authors, etc, which makes it that extra bit inspiring. Rachel Ignotofsky is also an amazing illustrator as the book is so beautiful! Most of what I wrote above has been taken from the book.

 

Although today is International Women’s Day and we should spend the day appreciating women, let’s not forget that everyday is a day to respect and appreciate women as well as other people.

 

-Shay

International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today is a day to celebrate the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women! That being said, that doesn’t imply that the 8th of March is the only designated day for women to be treated and celebrated as equals. Everyday should be a day for equal treatment amongst all types of people but today is the day as a celebration.

The reason I say this is because during the course of today, I’ve realised a few things:

  1. People still don’t completely understand the concept of feminism.
  2. A lot of males get offended by celebrating the achievements and strength of women.
  3. Someone I know and am close to is sexist.

 

It’s not an unknown fact that with aging comes experiencing and that means that as you grow older, you learn a lot and you adapt and change your opinions and ways of thinking.

As a kid in year seven and eight, I was completely for the idea of equality, having gone through the process of dealing and combatting racism, sexism, ageism, etc. However, even so, I wasn’t fully educated on these subjects, not as much as I am today and so I was a little ignorant. Like a lot of people, the term “feminism” felt like discrimination against men and upraising women, which I felt was unfair and hypocritical. I felt that peace amongst all sexes as well as the harmony amongst women was more important because there are so many issues with that, especially in the media. Although, my little mind didn’t realise what I felt was important was in fact a part of feminism. The word “feminism”, to me wasn’t what feminism actually is; it was bashing males and only focusing on the problems of women. That is entirely untrue.

Feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.’ Let me repeat: ‘the equality of sexes.’

Having learnt this when I was young, I educated myself further, adapted and now I can say that I am a feminist. And, it’s never too late to educate yourself, too, as ignorance is no longer an excuse in this modern day and age.When called a white feminist, Emma Watson took it upon herself to educate and also adapted her own beliefs and opinions to fit feminism, holistically. Do not be ashamed to get a better understanding of something so important.

 

There was a particular person, today, who had said something that made me inspired to write this post. I’m not mentioning who or any names for the sake of privacy but their exact words were:

‘There’s never going to be equality..’ -I thought, okay, I guess that’s partly true but cynical.

‘…Women can’t do all jobs.” -Excusez-moi, vous petite chienne!?

Following this comment, I had a discussion with my friend. She stated that women can do all sorts of things but biologically wise, men tend to have more muscle mass. However, there are “weaker” males and “stronger” women, in terms of muscle mass. We also talked about how employers might find women “unreliable” in terms of maternity leave. An employer cannot refuse a pregnant women because of her pregnant state or condition or whatever it is related to her pregnancy, even though this does unfortunately happen. That being said, the supposed “unreliability” of women is discrimination by employers and not a god judgement of how well a women can perform at work. We then went on to talk about how Winnie the Pooh is actually a girl (fun fact!).

Women can do everything a man can do while bleeding.

And that’s not me making it seem like women are better and have a harder life than men. I understand that men have difficulties too and get faced with sexism too and that will be elaborated on in another post.

 

Feminism is equality and balance and as Emma Watson once said “If you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist. Sorry to tell you.”

 

-Shay