The 50 Most Important Women in Science – Discover Magazine

Posted: July 4, 2018 at 4:48 pm

Melissa Franklin Professor of Physics, Harvard University "I build things, and then I fix them when I build them badly," says the experimental physicist, offering a deceptively modest description of her work. The objects she tinkers with are complex particle detectors, including the powerful proton-antiproton Collider Detector at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, which she used to spot the top quark in 1995.

Maria Zuber Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Science, MIT Using laser ranging, gravity measurements, and data from spacecraft, Zuber maps surface features and probes the interior of Mars, Venus, Jupiter's moons, and our own moon. Her goal is to "figure out the processes that acted on a particular body in the past in order to make its surface the way it is now."

Fame Passed Them By

History has not always been kind to women scientists. Many have passed long days and nights in the lab stirring noxious concoctions or gathering piles of data only to see the credit for their discoveries awarded to a male colleague. Sometimes the work was obscured by a famous mentor. Here is a selection of female scientists who deserve greater notice:

Lise Meitner (1878-1968) In 1938, after she escaped from the Nazis to Sweden, she carried out the key calculations that led to the discovery of nuclear fission. Her collaborator, Otto Hahn, who stayed behind in Germany, was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1944. In 1997 Meitner was finally honored when element 109 was named meitnerium.

Emmy Noether (1882-1935) She devised a mathematical principle, called Noether's theorem, which became a foundation stone of quantum physics. Her calculations helped Einstein formulate his general theory of relativity. "It is really through her that I have become competent in the subject," he admitted.

Frieda Robscheit-Robbins (1893-1973) Together with George Whipple, she discovered that a diet rich in liver cured anemia in dogs, which in turn led directly to treatment for pernicious anemia in humans. Although she coauthored numerous papers with Whipple, it was he who was honored with the 1934 Nobel Prize in medicine.

Hilde Mangold (1898-1924) Under the guidance of Hans Spemann, she carried out the experiments that led to the discovery of the organizer effect, which directs the development of embryonic cells into tissues and organs. She died after being set afire by an alcohol stove on which she was heating food for her baby. Eleven years later, Spemann won the Nobel Prize.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) In her 1925 Ph.D. thesisdescribed by the noted astronomer Otto Struve in 1960 as "the most brilliant . . . ever written in astronomy"she proposed that all stars are made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Astronomers dismissed her observations until four years later, when they were confirmed by a man. She was the first woman to become a professor of science at Harvard.

Beatrice "Tilly" Shilling (1909-1990) A prize-winning motorcycle racer and aeronautical engineer, she designed a small metal ring that fit onto the fuel line of an aircraft engine to keep the flow of fuel constant. This enabled World War II British fighter pilots to dive without fear that their engines would cut out.

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) In 1957 she and her colleagues overthrew a principle previously considered immutable in physics: that nature does not distinguish between right and left. Chien-Shiung found that this rule does not hold true for interactions between subatomic particles involving the so-called weak force. The Nobel Prize was awarded to two male colleagues.

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) Her X-ray photographs of crystallized DNA, taken in the early 1950s, proved that the molecule was a helix. This data was used, without her knowledge, by James Watson and Francis Crick to elucidate the structure of DNA. By the time they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962, Franklin had died of ovarian cancer.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943-) With the aid of a radio telescope she built herself, she became the first astronomer to detect pulsarsrapidly spinning, extremely dense neutron stars. But she was deemed too inexperienced to receive the Nobel Prize, which was given instead in 1974 to her thesis adviser, Anthony Hewisha man who later referred to her as "a jolly good girl [who] was just doing her job."

Josie Glausiusz

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The 50 Most Important Women in Science - Discover Magazine

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