Part A - 1700-1900
Even today, when we think about influential people in sciences over the years, male scientists’ names pop up in our minds easily. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen William Hawking are some of the names that I can recall in a matter of seconds. Each one of them made incredible discoveries, solved mysteries, gave answers to unexplained until then phenomena, and led the way in the scientific world. But, what about female scientists? What do we know about them and how did they contribute to the scientific world?
A female scientist that is widely known and recognized is Marie Curie. She is worldwide famous for her discoveries on radioactivity, while she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize back in 1903. A few years later, in 1911 she won her second Nobel Prize making her the first person winning this prize twice and the only woman to have done so up to this day.
However, decades before Marie Curie, women scientists left their mark on the scientific world with their revolutionary discoveries. Some of them, not only pushed the scientific boundaries but they made gigantic steps in the recognition of the status of women in sciences.
Caroline Herschel, who moved from Germany to England back in 1772, was the first woman to hold a government position in England. She relentlessly demanded her rights to earn an independent wage, in order to be able to support herself, and she became the first woman scientist to receive a salary.
Her work on the astronomy and discovery of eight comets awarded her among other recognitions the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1828).
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Garrett_Anderson
Another remarkable example of an exceptional woman scientist who fought for her rights is that of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. Elizabeth was the first Englishwoman to be qualified as a doctor.
Although she had already obtained her medical degree, the British medical society refused to recognize her as a qualified doctor and surgeon. Anderson not only did not get discouraged, but she also founded the ‘New Hospital for Women’ in London (1872) with all female employees in an act of defiance. Due to Anderson’s determination in 1876, an act was passed in English law permitting women to enter the medical professions.
These women are only a very select set of examples of women scientists that fought for their rights. They believed in the power of their minds and vindicated for equal recognition. In the end, their limit was no one else… except for their own selves.
With thanks - this article was written by Stella Manoli.