Katharine Dexter was the first woman to get a science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in biology in 1904. The curriculum was research heavy and besides the demanding work, she had to petition the college twice—once for permission to work in chemistry laboratories without a hat and again to be allowed to wear a shorter skirt. The reason for the later—she didn’t want her dress to drag across the unclean floors. Her plan was to go into medicine. Continue reading Katherine Dexter McCormick; Godmother to the birth control pill
If you have as much as heard of ‘DNA’, the name Rosalind Franklin should be synonymous with it. This pioneering scientist played a crucial role in solving one of the great scientific questions of her time, and unfortunately did not live long enough to be given her due.
Rosalind Franklin was a British scientist born in the 20th Century. She graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Cambridge (where she witnessed the appointment of its first ever woman professor Dorothy Garrod), and later joined King’s College, London, where she worked on X-ray crystallography of DNA crystals. It was a time when the greatest minds in Biology and Chemistry were working on one elusive question: what is the structure of DNA? This was particularly important because DNA is the molecule responsible for carrying genetic information; knowledge of its structure would help us understand how this genetic information is carried across generations. Continue reading Rosalind Franklin
Mary Somerville was born in Scotland on Dec. 26, 1780, and had four supreme passions in her life: her family, equality for women, science, and birds.
Described as feminine in manner and appearance, as a girl she never cared for dolls. Her mother said she would have been content if Mary had “only learnt to write well and keep accounts which was all that a woman was expected to know.” Mary, however, had a talent for mathematics. She taught herself by listening in on her brother as he was tutored in geometry and by reading Euclid. Continue reading Mary Somerville: A Passion for Science
She Filled the Sky: The Awesome Astronomy of Annie Jump Cannon
This week’s post you get an awesome cartoon by the fab Dale DeBakcsy from the Illustrated Women in Science series at MadArtLab in addition to the usual written profile! Enjoy!
350,000 stars classified. It’s one of astronomy’s unbreakable and frankly not even approachable records, the scientific equivalent of the Ripken Streak. Seven hours a day, six days a week, for forty-four years, one woman bent herself to the task of creating an ultimate chart of the night sky, with each star classified not only by position, but by surface temperature and spectral signature. Hunched over a magnifying glass, she could categorize three stars a minute where others might take three minutes to categorize one star. She was astronomy’s Iron Woman – Annie Jump Cannon. Continue reading Annie Jump Cannon
Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley is one of the most remarkable living sheroes of our time, having created a multibillion dollar business that also established a new way to bring women into the workforce.
Although Shirley made her fame and fortune in England, she began her life in the industrial city of Dortmund, Germany in 1933 as Vera Buchthal, the daughter of a Jewish judge and a non-Jewish Viennese mother. Her father lost his position as the Nazi’s began their systematic persecution of Jews and other minorities, and by July 1939 Vera’s parents placed her and her older sister on the Kindertransport, an organized evacuation effort that took 10,000 mostly Jewish children out of Europe to Britain nine months before World War II broke out. The five year-old Vera said goodbye to her parents in Vienna and took the train to begin a new life in the UK. Continue reading Dame Stephanie Shirley
Julia Morgan was a groundbreaking female architect who worked on over 700 buildings during her epic career, paving the way for women in a male-dominated profession.
Julia was born to a wealthy family in San Francisco 1872. She was the second of 5 children and excelled at maths at an early age, encouraged by her mother. When she was still young she met her mother’s cousin, the architect Pierre Le Bron, who sparked in her the desire to become an architect too. Continue reading Julia Morgan
Nearly fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong took his famous first small step on the surface of the moon. Though people all over the US celebrated the monumental historical moment, arguably none were more excited or relieved than Margaret Hamilton, who led the MIT team responsible for the software that made a moon landing possible. Hamilton’s innovation and accomplishments helped pave the way for women in computer science disciplines during a Mad Men like era where women were a huge minority in the field. Continue reading Margaret Hamilton – One Giant Leap for Womankind