Women have made abundant contributions to science, but there is a serious lack of knowledge about these contributions and the women themselves.

For example, when you peer up into the night sky, you may think of names like Galileo Galilei or William Herschel, understandably so, since they are both famous astronomers typically taught discussed in school.

But if the name Caroline Herschel pops up, you could be quick to assume it is the name of William’s wife; when in reality, Caroline Herschel was William’s younger sister and the first women to discover a comet.

Caroline Herschel would discover several nebulae — clouds made up of gas and dust in outer space — and eight comets throughout her life, according to NASA.

Herschel_Caroline_1829.jpg
Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Other notable firsts from Caroline Herschel included being the first woman to be paid for her work in science and the first woman to be published by the Royal Society, a scientific society based in the UK.

Despite her efforts, Caroline Herschel’s accomplishments are all-too-often glossed over in traditional history and science courses. However, Caroline Herschel is not alone in being overlooked — she is in good company.

This illustrious company includes individuals like Mary Somerville, mathematician and science writer, who translated and wrote books on various topics in science during her life.

Mary_Somerville.jpg
Mary Somerville was a famous science writer and mathematician. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In one of Somerville’s books, “The Connection of the Physical Sciences,” a textbook about astronomy, geography, meteorology and physics, she wrote about the problems behind calculating the position of Uranus.

Somerville said in her book that that might indicate the existence of a new planet, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

John Couch Adams, astronomer, took this hint from Somerville’s book and began work on the calculations that eventually lead to the discovery of Neptune.

Both Somerville and Caroline Herschel were recognized by Royal Astronomical Society as the first honorary woman members.

While Somerville and Caroline Herschel both deserved the recognition from the society, not every woman was given proper credit for her work.

One such woman was Lise Meitner, who dedicated her life to studying radioactivity.

Lise_Meitner12.jpg
Lise Meitner dedicated her life studies to radioactivity and contributed to the discovery of nuclear fission. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

After finishing school at age 14, Meitner wanted to continue with higher education, but it would not be until 1895, when Meitner was 21, that women would be allowed to attend Austrian universities.

In 1906, Meitner became the second woman to earn a doctorate from the University of Vienna, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

Meitner found work with Otto Hahn in Berlin, where the pair worked on discovering isotopes.

When Hahn discovered that uranium atoms could be split using neutrons, Meitner worked hard on the calculations of the energy released in the process.

According to the Smithsonian, the phenomenon Meitner discovered, which she would call nuclear fission, would eventually led to the atomic bomb.

In 1944, Hahn received the Nobel prize for the work, but neither he nor the Nobel committee would ever recognize Meitner’s contributions.

Without proper recognition, Meitner did not return to Germany after the war and instead spent the rest of her life researching in Stockholm.

Important women in scientific history can be found throughout all the scientific fields and have made contributions just as significant as those of their male colleagues.

With advancements in technology and the ease of access to information online, the name Marie Curie should no longer be the only name people can produce when confronted with the topic of women in science.

Share: twitterFacebookgoogle_plus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *