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    Yesterday & Today: The Top Women Scientists
    By Jen Palmares Meadows | October 16th 2008 02:30 AM | 45 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    It's no news that women were historically excluded from the "boys club" of science but women scientists date as far back as Ancient Greece, and perhaps further. In more recent years, they have become essential to the scientific community.

    Several of the women listed here are sisters or wives of scientific men. During their times, women were forced onto the backburner but, given equal rights and freedoms, might have overshadowed their masculine counterparts. Some even disguised themselves as men and most, if not all, faced tremendous adversity. They have been chosen for this list because their contributions to science cannot be ignored, nor forgotten. 

    Every burgeoning young scientist ought to know their names and something of their achievements, as these women have laid fine foundation for the advancements that came later. So let's get started.

    Hypatia of Alexandria (AD 350 and 370-415) Greek scholar from Alexandria, Egypt, and considered the first notable woman in mathematics. Around 400 AD, she became head of the Platonist school of Alexandria. During her life, she discouraged mysticism and encouraged logical and mathematical studies.

    Eventually, she was killed by a Coptic Christian mob who blamed her for religious turmoil. She has been hailed as a "valiant defender of science against religion".

    (Hypatia as imagined by painter Raphael) 



    Emilie Du Chatelet (1706-1749) French Physicist and Mathematician who translated Newton's Principia, into French, which was published after her death. Du Chatelet disguised herself as a man in order to study science, and was supported by her father to seek an education because he thought she was too ugly to receive a marriage proposal, although she did marry at 19 years of age.

    She later became the mistress of Voltaire, who wrote a "Preface historique" to Principia. In a letter to his friend King Frederick II of Prussia, Voltaire declared that du Châtelet was "a great man whose only fault was being a woman."



     

    Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) Famous astronomer, who acted as an assistant to her brother, William Herschel. She discovered eight comets between 1786 and 1797, and submitted an Index to Flamsteed's Observations of the Fixed Stars (including over five hundred omitted stars) to the Royal Society in 1798, becoming the first woman to present a paper there.

    In 1835, she and Mary Fairfax Somerville were the first two women to be elected to the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1935 C. Herschel crater in the Sinus Iridium on the Moon was named in her honor. In 1846 at the age of 96, she was awarded the Gold Medal for Science by the King of Prussia.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze aka Madame Lavoisier (1758-1836) Considered "the mother of modern chemistry," she is most commonly known as the wife of Antoine Lavoisier, but many do not know of her own accomplishments in the field of chemistry.

    Marie-Anne accompanied Lavoisier in his lab, making entries into his lab notebooks and sketching diagrams of his experimental designs. She was able to accurately draw experimental apparatuses, which helped Lavoisier’s contemporaries understand his work. 

    A master in English, Latin, and French languages, she translated various works into French for her husband to read; he relied on her to keep abreast of current developments in chemistry.

    (Left: Portrait of M. and Mme Lavoisier, by Jacques-Louis David, 1788, Metropolitan Museum)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     Mary Somerville (1780-1872) Scottish science writer and polymath, at a time when women's participation in science was discouraged. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was the second woman scientist to receive recognition in the United Kingdom after Caroline Herschel.

    She carried out experiments in magnetism, presenting a paper entitled 'The Magnetic Properties of the Violet Rays of the Solar Spectrum' to the Royal Society in 1826, only the second woman to do so. She also authored several mathematical, astronomical, physical and geographical texts, and was a strong advocate for women's education. Somerville College, Oxford, was named after her.

    "Nothing has afforded me so convincing a proof of the unity of the Deity as these purely mental conceptions of numerical and mathematical science which have been by slow degrees vouchsafed to man, and are still granted in these latter times by the Differential Calculus, now superseded by the Higher Algebra, all of which must have existed in that sublimely omniscient Mind from eternity."

     
     
     

     Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) Hailed as the "First Programmer." Born Augusta Ada Byron, King was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron. She is widely known for writing a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She wrote programs, manipulating symbols according to rules, for the machine that Babbage had not yet built. While some, like Babbage, focused only on the number-crunching capabilities of computers, King foresaw their potential to do more.

    The computer language Ada, created by the U.S. Defense Department, was named after Lovelace.








    Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) - First professional woman astronomer in US, and first woman to gain membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848. Mitchell is noted for her discovery that sunspots are whirling vertical cavities and not, as previously thought, clouds.

    Mitchell was also named Director of Vassar College Observatory. After teaching there for some time, she learned that many younger male professors had larger salaries, despite her reputation and experience.  When she insisted on a salary increase, she got it.

    “We especially need imagination in science. Question everything.”

    “Study as if you were going to live forever; live as if you were going to die tomorrow.”

    “Do not look at stars as bright spots only. Try to take in the vastness of the universe.”

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Marie Curie (1867-1934) Chemist and physicist, the only person to receive Nobel Prizes in two different sciences: Physics (1903) and Chemistry (1911). She was the first woman professor at the University of Paris and is credited with the creation of the theory of radioactivity and the discovery of polonium and radium. Although Curie was a French citizen, she named the first new chemical element that she discovered "polonium" for her mother country, Poland.

    Some of her achievements include techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes. It was also under her personal direction that the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms ("cancers"), using radioactive isotopes.

    "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. "

    "Scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity." - Lecture at Vassar College

    Karen Horney (1885-1952) German psychodynamic psychologist (psychoanalyst) of Norwegian and Dutch descent. Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views, particularly his theory of sexuality, as well as the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis and its genetic psychology. As such, she is often classified as Neo-Freudian.

    She also founded a journal, named the American Journal of Psychoanalysis. She taught at the New York Medical College and continued practicing as a psychiatrist until her death in 1952.

    "Like all sciences and all valuations, the psychology of women has hitherto been considered only from the point of view of men."

    "Concern should drive us into action, not into a depression."
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) US Mathematician and Computer Technologist who joined the navy during World War II, where she became the first female Rear Admiral. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I calculator, and she developed the first compiler for a computer programming language.

    She is sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace". In 1996, the US USS Hopper was launched and nicknamed Amazing Grace, one of the few U.S. military vessels named after a woman.

    "Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, 'We've always done it this way.' I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise."

     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909- ) Born in Italy to a Sephardic Jewish family who, together with colleague Stanley Cohen, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of Nerve growth factor (NGF). She went to work as Giuseppi Levi's assistant, but her academic career was cut short by Benito Mussolini's 1938 Manifesto Della Razza and the subsequent introduction of laws barring Jews from academic and professional careers.

    During World War II, she conducted experiments from a home laboratory, studying the growth of nerve fibers in chicken embryos which laid the groundwork for much of her later research. Her first genetics laboratory was in her bedroom at her home.

    In 1987, she received the National Medal of Science, the highest honor in the scientific world of America. Today she is the oldest living Nobel laureate. She is a senator for life in the Italian Senate.

    "I returned to Turin on the verge of the invasion of Belgium by the German army, Spring 1940, to join my family. The two alternatives left then to us were either to emigrate to the United States, or to pursue some activity that needed neither support nor connection with the outside Aryan world where we lived. My family chose this second alternative. I then decided to build a small research unit at home and installed it in my bedroom."

    "As for the presence of large NGF [nerve growth factor] sources in snake venom and male genital organs, they may be conceived as instances of bizarre evolutionary gene expression."

    Chien Shiung-Wu (1912-1997) Chinese-born American physicist who radically changed scientific views on the behavior of nuclear particles. She worked on the Manhattan Project (to enrich the uranium fuel). Her nicknames included the “First Lady of Physics” and “Madame Curie of China."

    In 1956, she assisted Tsung-Dao Lee in his parity laws development (with Chen Ning Yang) by providing a test method for beta decay that worked successfully. While some consider her contribution instrumental in the creation of the laws, she did not share their Nobel Prize, possibly due to sexism by the selection committee.

    "I sincerely doubt that any open-minded person really believes in the faulty notion that women have no intellectual capacity for science and technology. Nor do I believe that social and economic factors are the actual obstacles that prevent women's participation in the scientific and technical field. The main stumbling blocking the way of any progress is and always has been unimpeachable tradition."

    - Speaking at a 1964 conference on women and science.

     

    Rosalind Franklin: (1920-1958) English biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who contributed to understanding the compositions of DNA and viruses. Her most noteworthy work is that on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA which were an important influence on Crick and Watson's 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. 

    Franklin was not eligible for nomination to the Nobel Prize subsequently awarded to Crick and Watson in 1962 as she died at the age of 37 of complications arising from cancer of the ovary. However, there has been much dispute amongst the scientific community as to her conribution to the 1953 award winning hypothesis; Crick and Watson's employed her research without her knowledge or permission. In a biography written by Brenda Maddox, Franklin is referred to as "The Dark Lady of DNA."

    "In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall succeed in our aims: the improvement of mankind."

    “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.” 

    Jane Goodall (1934- ) English UN Messenger of Peace and anthropologist. Goodall was instrumental in the field of primatology and is known for her discovery of tool-making among chimpanzees. Prior to her discovery, tool-making was considered a defining difference between humans and other animals.

    Today, Goodall travels nearly 300 days a year to advocate on behalf of chimpanzees and the environment. She is also a board member for the world's largest chimpanzee sanctuary outside of Africa, Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce, Florida.

    "The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves."

    "The greatest danger to our lives is apathy."

    "Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference."

     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     

    Shirley Ann Jackson (1946-) US physicist. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1973, only the second African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics in the US. Jackson is a trustee at MIT and a former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    In 1998, she was inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame for "her significant contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy". She was also was named one of the 50 Most Important Women in Science by Discover magazine.

    "Aim for the stars so that you can reach the treetops, and at least you'll get off the ground." -Jackson quotes her father as saying

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Mae Carol Jemison (1956- ) American physician and NASA astronaut who was the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in September 1992. She entered Stanford University at 16 years of age. 

    "When I grew up in the 1960s the only American astronauts were men. Looking out the window of that space shuttle, I thought if that little girl growing up in Chicago could see her older self now, she would have a huge grin on her face."








    Many female scientists, for the sake of brevity, have been omitted from this list. You are welcome and encouraged to post any female scientists in historical or contemporary times that are missing. 

    Comments

    rholley
    Here's three to be getting on with: Vera Rubin, discoverer of "dark matter" in galaxies; Lise Meitner, co-discoverer of nuclear fission; Inge Lehmann, seismologist. Robert H. Olley Physics Department University of Reading England
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    I would suggest Prof. Elizabeth Loftus, for her work on the malleability of memory; in particular, her work on eyewitness testimony and on the myth of repressed memory.

    Regarding the discussion about which women do or don't deserve to be included in this list, it is at least worth considering that many women have faced obstacles that may well have prevented them from achieving the kind of status that men have. It may be too difficult to know which women could have achieved such high status had things been different, but there may be many women of science that we consider to be notable in terms of what they achieved relative to the kind of environment they worked in.

    From my own discipline I would mention Margaret Floy Washburn, who was the first woman to achieve a PhD in the discipline, having originally studied in Columbia University as a "hearer", because women were not actually allowed to be students. She went on to become the first female president of the American Psychological Association.

    More about Washburn can be found here and here.

    rholley
    One from today and one from yesterday: From the present: another great Dane, namely Lene Hau, the "Frozen Atom Lady". (The atoms are "frozen" by laser cooling!) From the early 19th Century, Jane Marcet, famous for her "Conversations on Chemistry". You can read them online, courtesy of the Royal Society, HERE. Robert H. Olley Physics Department University of Reading England
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hatice Cullingford
    Mae Jemison earned a medical degree and became a physician in 1981. (She has never been a physicist.) http://www.answers.com/topic/mae-c-jemison Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Jemison
    Hank
    Physician ... physicist. It's all the same.

    "Physicist, heal thyself!" has all kinds of nuance to it.

    Hatice Cullingford
    Sure, I am also a Dr who wants to help others heal :) Mae's sorority celebrated her return to Earth after her space mission at a big party at which I was a guest. That was my motivation to make a correction. Otherwise I am pleased to see this article. Women like Curie and Jemison are in my long list of men and women whom I appreciate. Thanks, Jen.
    rholley
    Dorothy Hodgkin was the pioneer of protein crystallography. My recently retired boss, a crystallographer by training himself, thought very highly of her. An article celebrating her in Chemistry in Britain showed her in a group photograph taken at a conference in Ireland in 1943. Erwin Schrödinger was also in the photograph, having found refuge in Ireland from Nazi Germany. He repaid the kindness of the Irish by impregnating two ladies, which must have made life difficult for them in that very morally conservative country. Obviously Schrödinger's cat was never in the box in the first place, but out on the tiles. Robert H. Olley Physics Department University of Reading England
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Jen Palmares Meadows
    Physician ... physicist. It's all the same. "Physicist, heal thyself!" has all kinds of nuance to it.
    Woops. I blame leprechauns on this.
    rholley
    The Leprechauns are at work! This is the second time I've tried to send this, having triggered a "parse error" the first time! Writing from Donegal to an American lady in 1956, C.S.Lewis wrote:
    I doubt if you'll find any Leprechauns in Eire now. The Radio has driven them away.
    But the Mourne Mountains, perhaps? While reading Chemistry World just now, I turned up Kathleen Lonsdale, another famous crystallographer. And as her name might suggest, she was born in Ireland! Robert H. Olley Physics Department University of Reading England
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Grace Hopper was not a scientist. Nor was Karen H., because psychoanalysis is not a science, but a cult with delusions of grandeur. Astronauts are not scientists. Listing a woman who is a science administrator
    ( actually engineering, as NRC is not a science entity)
    in the same article as Marie Curie and Maria Mitchell is silly.

    I would include Y. Choquet-Bruhat, who was the woman who solved the existence problem for the Einstein Field equations with fairly general initial data; Maria Mayer, the Nobel Laureate who invented the nuclear shell theory; R. Yallow, Noble Laureate for inventing nuclear immunoassay; Cecill Dewitt, a major early player in Quantum Gravity;
    Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who invented the Cepheid variable yardstick that Hubble used to discover the expanding universe.

    Meitner didn't discover nuclear fission, but she and her very junior co-author ( her cousin O. Frisch) wrote the mathematical theory that showed it had happened. Before her
    Hann and even Fermi had fissioned the atom--but not understood that they had done so.

    While we are listing early nuclear scientists we should add
    A. Novick, and Juliette and Irene Curie.

    Listing an African American astronaut and an African American minor scientist and administrator in the company
    of Marie Curie etc., is just ridiculous. But, I guess it was
    necessary to list African Americans for some political reason.

    Also Olga Ladyzenskya, Olenik, for their mathematical work
    in fluid dynamics. Maybe I should be listed too for solving the compressible subsonic gas dynamics ( non-viscous)
    flow past arbitrary three dimensional objects, and proving the existence of a smooth family of transonic flows without shocks?

    Jean Taylor for her work in the mathematics of crystal formation and for her work on soap films. Karen Uhlenbeck
    for her work in topology and gauge theory.

    By the way, Ida Lovelace was more famous in her day as
    a synthetic four dimensional geometer than as a computer programmer. Being a computer programmer is NOT science.

    I forgot to add two mathematicians Mary Cartwright--who among other things discovered chaos in nonlinear electronics; and
    Sofia Kovalevskaya, who was a major early contributer to Partial Differential equations and mathematical physics.

    AND WHERE IS EMMY NOETHER? Not an African American astronaut, but the woman who invented modern abstract algebra and was the creator of the Noether symmetry theorem on which modern high energy physics is so dependent.

    I think that Sophie Germain would deserve a place among your best female scientist. She worked with Gauss, first under the name of Mr Leblanc, then under her own name. You can look at her bio at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Germain

    Jen Palmares Meadows

    My main purpose in writing this article was to inspire young women in science, but it seems that I have inspired anger more than anything. I believe, the original title of this article was "Inspiring Women Scientists." Or perhaps more accurately I could have titled it, "Inspiring Women in Science."

    Penny, I must address the sarcastic quality of your comments that demean many if not all, the women on this list.

    I am certain that if another list were titled "Top Scientists," and included both men and women, 13 out of 15 would probably be men. And of the 2, say Marie Curie and perhaps, Rosalind Franklin, someone would have said, "Franklin only took a picture and probably didn't even know what she was looking at! She is there just because she is a woman! How dare you include Franklin amongst the likes of Newton and Einstein?"

    And the answer is: Women dare because they must. Women dare because sometimes few will.

    Recently, a bright woman, who I know and admire, wrote an article, which listed scientists who inspired her. All of them were men.

    But that can't be, I thought! She plans to pursue a PHD eventually, but she has no women on her list? At some point, I knew she would want to also find someone of her own sex to inspire her alongside Newton and Einstein. So I set out to write an article of my own listing women in science that she or any woman might derive inspiration from.

    Listing an African American astronaut and an African American minor scientist and administrator in the company of Marie Curie etc., is just ridiculous. But, I guess it was necessary to list African Americans for some political reason.
    It is opinions such as yours that dissuade potential minds, be they women or women of color, from pursuing scientific study. The accomplishments of women of color, today, should be known and have cause for applaud, and their being on this list is not only a testament to their contributions to the annals of science and science history, but also to make notice of the growing diversity in the scientific community.
    Maybe I should be listed too for solving the compressible subsonic gas dynamics ( non-viscous) flow past arbitrary three dimensional objects, and proving the existence of a smooth family of transonic flows without shocks?

    I would gladly add your name here, Penny. To mother a family and study science at the same time is a feat to be sure. However, I find you not in the least inspiring.

    rholley
    It is with great trepidation that I enter again into the discussion. I am reminded of the caption of a Giles Cartoon (22/09/2008):
    "Gentlemen, I think the World will agree that in welcoming Mr. Khrushchev we have ended the Cold War by making it boiling hot."
    and when I open my mouth I often put my foot in it. Nevertheless: One cannot automatically dismiss someone because they have been appointed to move among the "great and good". A lady who has been made a Dame of the British Empire is Julia Higgins DBE FRS FREng. The reason I mention her here is because she inspired ME. Maybe 20 years ago, she came and lectured at Reading and started my interest in polymer blends which has led to several publications. In regard to Shirley Ann Jackson, her most recent searchable scientific publication is Transition in the nature of magnetoexcitons in shallow quantum wells, SOLID STATE COMMUNICATIONS, 1996. Even the title I find intimidating! However, in 1995, President Clinton appointed her to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I am not going to make any political comment about the American scene - one of my boyhood memories is Lonnie Donegan singing "The Battle of New Orleans" - but the transition upstairs can severely curtail one's scientific career. As I sing sometimes when sowing seeds or potting on:
    It's the touch of *death* from Mister Green-finger!
    Robert H. Olley Physics Department University of Reading England
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Jen,

    Well, the post was titled "TOP WOMEN SCIENTISTS", and these
    Women of color ( as you call them) don't cut the mustard compared to women like Vera Rubin and Marie Curie or Madam Wu--who changed our understanding of the universe forever. Nor do Grace Hopper and Karen H., cut it.

    I am not and was not angry. I just disagree with some of your choices. If you are presenting a list in public, you must expect people to question the choices--that is called
    "getting your readers intellectually engaged in your post."
    It is a good thing.

    I was also not being sarcastic--that is your projection.
    And I am a strong supporter of women in science --have been for decades.

    As to great African American Women Scientists--to quote
    a black woman Nobel Laureate in literature--" the greatest
    XXXX lies in wait in the halls of the future, yet unborn."

    But, on a list titled "TOP WOMEN SCIENTISTS" listing a black astronaut is as silly as listing a white computer programmer
    who wrote a business language.

    If I were a black woman majoring in science I would be infuriated by your choices--because they are clearly inferior to "TOP WOMEN SCIENTISTS". I would find it condescending. That is how I would feel as a young white or black scientist about including Grace Hopper instead of say,
    Sophie Germain. It brings to mind "damning with faint praise".

    Perhaps, as an English Major the motivations and values of
    Scientists and Science Students are a bit of a mystery to you. Why is an English major writing on inspiring young scientists anyway? ( Not that that is a bad thing though.)

    And if you don't find me inspiring--that is irrelevant.

    Again--no anger on my side--plenty on yours, I think. In
    Science we learn early that disagreements are not a cause for anger--just for discussion.

    p.s. By the way, to me color of skin is absolutely irrelevant to this discussion. I have had deep relationships with both black men and black women--and lived with a black woman lover for two years--but that is not a reason to assume that
    a black engineering administrator is on par as a top scientist with Madam Wu--who changed our notion of Space-time forever.

    If you post had been " Women Scientists, Astronauts, and
    Engineering Administrators who inspire me", well, then these women would have been well chosen. In that sphere, I too an impressed by them.

    p.s. If Steven Mallet's time machine works--I would easily add him to a list of top scientists--too bad he is not a she. He is black. His research is funded by the NSF.

    Dear Robert,
    WEll, ok she wrote:
    Transition in the nature of magnetoexcitons in shallow quantum wells, SOLID STATE COMMUNICATIONS, 1996

    Does that make her a top scientist? On the same list as Madam Wu, who verifed CPT invariance and changed our notion of space-time forever.

    By the way, I have also written on quantum wells--
    " Removable Singularities for the Yang-Mills-Higgs Equations
    in Two Dimensions"--Analysis Nonlinear Henri Poincare in the
    1990's.
    My paper was rigorous mathematics.

    So I am not intimidated by her title.

    There are hundreds, even thousands of scientists who have published on quantum wells--that alone means NOTHING.

    When I was a young teen, I gave up an interest in a career in experimental science for the new goal of becoming a research mathematician or theoretical physicist--and I was given a book on such that had a woman actuary, and Grace Hopper and Countess Lovelace. It was given to my by a female guidance
    councilor--who was not a scientist.
    My conclusion was that girls really are inferior in math ability to boys. I was depressed for several months and considered going to medical school instead.

    Then, I discovered, Emmy Noether, Sophie Germain, S. Kovalevskya, Y Choquet Bruhat, and Maria Mayer--and that Lise Meitner ( who my mother had met) was not a chemist but a mathematical physicist. I decided that maybe I had a chance.

    The book was also not by a scientist, and it mentioned
    happily that Voltaire's girlfriend had translated Newton's
    Principia into French. The message I got from this was that
    Men are Newton's and women are translators into French.

    That book was poison.

    I also recall a biography ( and a similar movie) of Marie Curie that described her as a mother who was constantly stirring a big pot of pitchblend to reduce to radium--gee,
    just like cooking a stew.

    What a description of a woman who won TWO Nobel prizes, and who was mathematically brilliant enough to impress Langmuir and Einstein!

    This should be factored into my comments.

    Anon--that was me, of course. Hey, "Anonymous was a Woman"
    sounds like a catchy title :) .

    Anyway, this memory is clearly upsetting, as I see that I wrote:
    "Newton's " for Newtons
    and used "who" for "whom".

    When I get upset, I lose basic grammar and punctuation.

    Not angry at Jen, though. Never was.

    "Then I discovered
    , Emmy Noether, Sophie Germain, S. Kovalevskya"

    In a book called "Men of Mathematics"! The author E.T. Bell
    also included a description of Noether as ungainly and mannish--and a picture of her in her sixties to prove it.
    ( Many years later, I discovered that She was quite feminine in her youth).

    Still, thank the gods for E.T. Bell, who gave proof that women could be TOP mathematicians!

    Values of Scientists ( at least mathematicians):

    Is someone a top mathematician because they are dean of math at a fancy university? No, but possibly the converse.

    As my deceased friend Paul Erdos said: " All that matters is this: " The Supreme Fascist ( Paul's term for GOD) has a book, in which the most elegant proofs of all theorems of any significance are written: Is your proof in the S.F.'s book?"

    Erdos never got a tenured job--but he was a top mathematician.
    He wrote chapters of that book.

    Young mathematicians are motivated by the life goal of proving GREAT theorems, and young physicists by the goal of discovering deep new laws of nature.

    In that world, to become an administrator is to be a ....
    Failure. To become an astronaut or program computers for the Navy is to be a.....joke.

    Sometimes it can be quite harsh--Robert Oppenheimer cowrote a very important paper on neutron stars, but-- in his day--
    ( see his recent biographies) he was regarded as a failure, because he became an administrator of Los Alamos and of
    The IAS.

    Not knowing of his neutron star paper--no young physicist that I knew ever wanted to be Oppenheimer. They wanted to be
    Einstein or Pauli or Heisenberg etc--because they had discovered important new laws of nature.

    When graduate students of my day didn't go into physics or math basic research but became highly paid applied scientists or engineers or quants or four year college deans, we treated them as dead--like
    the Jewish dad whose child married a Christian.

    In a nutshell, to be a top scientist, one must do....
    TOP SCIENCE.

    Jen,
    You wrote:
    //
    Rosalind Franklin, someone would have said, "Franklin only took a picture and probably didn't even know what she was looking at! She is there just because she is a woman! How dare you include Franklin amongst the likes of Newton and Einstein?"
    //

    She did only what? She was running a Paterson projection to verify the helical structure--that is not a picture. That was in her lab notes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patterson_function

    Rosalind Franklin was also a major player---before she died--in the X-ray crystallography of viri.

    Not to be cruel--but, this is what happens when an English major writes on the history of science.

    Your analogy is puff--written without any understanding of the science. I don't want to fight with you. It is a shame that you couldn't accept that others might be sufficiently engaged by your interesting post to post some opinions and alternate choices.

    Do you seriously put forth that Franklin's achievement was on the same level as that of a black astronaut or a woman computer programmer? That is demeaning to science and to
    women scientists: Whether you understand that or not.

    I am done. I never intended a fight, especially with a
    liberal arts major pontificating about science, who assumes that anyone who disagrees with her is an enemy of women in science--even a woman scientist.

    Dear David,
    I agree with adding Loftus. Also add Terry Carr. Loftus never really studied actual trauma victims--however Carr did--and did a famous long term study of the child victims of a famous
    bus hijacking. She showed that memory is altered, confused and
    repressed in such cases. Carr's work predates Loftus, and what is repression or distortion if not alteration of memory?

    More details can be found in Carr's book "Too Scared to Cry".
    Carr is not only a researcher but a clinician who actually worked with documented ( often high profile) trauma cases.

    Add them both IMHO.

    Jen Palmares Meadows
    Jen, You wrote: // Rosalind Franklin, someone would have said, "Franklin only took a picture and probably didn't even know what she was looking at! She is there just because she is a woman! How dare you include Franklin amongst the likes of Newton and Einstein?" // She did only what? She was running a Paterson projection to verify the helical structure--that is not a picture. That was in her lab notes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patterson_function Rosalind Franklin was also a major player---before she died--in the X-ray crystallography of viri. Not to be cruel--but, this is what happens when an English major writes on the history of science. Your analogy is puff--written without any understanding of the science. I don't want to fight with you. It is a shame that you couldn't accept that others might be sufficiently engaged by your interesting post to post some opinions and alternate choices.
    Penny, I don't think you understood that I was being sarcastic about belittling Franklin's contribution. I think she's very inspiring--as you can see, she is included on the list. I can see how anybody can misread tone, scientist or English major alike--sometimes letters on a screen can be so cold, whereas if we were sitting at a table together, we might argue, have a good laugh, etc. I can tell that you are passionate about women's contributions, so there we can agree. I'm very happy that people are posting alternate choices, as you can see, I requested that they would. I am certain that I can and will learn a great deal from the many scientists posting to this site. As to fighting with you, I don't think I would call it that, after all, this is only my second time posting a comment. Remember, even English majors can appreciate science :) It's a very intriguing subject. Enjoy your blogging.
    Dear Jen,
    I am glad we are NOT fighting. I didn't want to fight. Actually, I was so upset by the turn that this took that I was unable to get any math done for two days! It was terrible.

    The worst of it--what upset me greatly--was being told that I was the enemy of women in science. As you say, I am VERY passionate about women in science!

    I bet we would have fun sitting at a table together.

    best
    Penny

    Jen,
    By the way, I think you meant "ironic" not "sarcastic", in your posts.
    Sarcastic is "with mean spirit, ill will".
    best
    Penny

    Jen Palmares Meadows
    Penny, You're right about the "ironic" vs "sarcastic. And me, an English major. Although I can be mean spirited and act with ill will. Didn't you know I terrorize my cat? Jen PS. Sorry the whole thing escalated into a mess. If you're ever in Nor cal, look me up for a drink.
    Dear Jen,
    I will do that.
    best
    Penny

    I hope someday to see my own name or especially Helena P. Blavatsky's name (it was a joint effort) for writing a theory of evolution that should rightfully be found as a friendly competitor to Darwin's own work in the 1800s. Blavatsky published THE SECRET DOCTRINE in 1888 and my epiphany came in 1995. Best wishes in your work.

    spinner
    Jen,

    I think you picked awesome choices for the top women in science and I thought your descriptions were brilliant.
    Dame Harriet Chick was pretty awesome.

    Radhakrishna
    Your article is excellent. So many women excelled inspite of obstacles. Congratulations
    MARIA SKLODOWSKA WAS POLISH!
    Not only her mother but also father, grandmother and grandfather were polish! She was born in Poland! She finished her school in Poland! Then she moved to poor France!
    She married Curie that’s why she was MARIA SKLODOWSKA-CURIE!!!!!!
    POLISH!!!!!!
    Learn properly the history!

    Jen and Penny, actually I think you mean "sardonic"!

    SK, 'learn properly the English language' [!] then you might be able to read that the original blog did indeed mention "her mother country [was] Poland "...!

    the problem is that this list actually shows that the female contribution to science has been negligible.
    Newton, Gauss, Einstein, Darwin, ... Each one of these males contributed to science more than all women.

    Mati
    I think Carol Greider is one of the brightest current women scientists. She discovered telomerase when she was a graduate student. Of course, she was honored with Nobel Prize in 2009.
    http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/pharmacology/research/greider.html
    Thank you, very informative list. I hadn't heard of Madame Lavoisier; K. Horney; S. A. Jackson; nor M. C. Jemison. I agree with some posters that your definition of 'science' in your list is a bit loose (engineers and programmers, are not scientist) but that's cool. Given my background in Physics would definitely also include Lise Meitner and Emily Noether. Cheers.

    Johannes Koelman
    Emmy Noether is arguably the biggest female scientist ever, and a great example of a female who succeeded despite adversity. Another - contemporary - candidate for the list: Lisa Randall.
    Oliver Knevitt
    Jen, did you see this article in PNAS? It was out this week. After doing a study, the authors concluded that women are more likely than men to make personal choices that prevent them from progressing to more senior levels. Essentially, the career structure and culture of science is weighted against them, rather than there being straightforward individual sexual discrimination.

    It was in response to a study by Christine Wenneras, who analysed why the women:men ratio of PhD level researchers is quite even whereas at postdoc onwards it is reduced and reduced, finding that it was biased at the application level.

    Kathy Weston's personal experience of her eventual exclusion from academia shows how having kids played a part in her downfall by leading to a drop in her productivity and quality of research. I got these links from an article by Alice Bell, by the way.)

    A great compendium, by the way!
    Oliver Knevitt
    I'm surprised that Jocelyn Bell's name hasn't been mentioned, she of discovering-pulsars-but-being-denied-the-nobel-prize fame.

    Whilst many (even Bell herself) would agree that she didn't really deserve the Nobel Prize anyway, I went to a meal last year where Anthony Hewish, her supervisor and the recipient of the Nobel prize, was the after-dinner speaker. He said that, if it instead had been a male that saw the LGM (little green man) signal, they would probably have dismissed it as anomalous, rather than noting and investigating it meticulously as she did.
    Oliver Knevitt
    I'm having an existensial self-doubt moment; it may not have been Hewish himself that said that, but somebody else I was chatting to. Anyway, I think the point is a good one.

    N.B. I would also second Dorothy Hodgkin, who sequenced insulin and made great bounds in X-ray crytallography. (Sorry for cluttering your thread!)
    O. Knevitt. mentioned Jocelyn Bell; of course she should be on the list. Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Nobel prize in Physics in 1963 defintely should also be on the list.

    Has anyone seen the movie 'Agora' where Rachel Weiss plays Hypatia?

    Henrietta Swan Leavitt. An American astronomer. Leavitt's formulation of the period-luminosity relationship of Cepheid variable stars provided the foundation for a paradigm shift in modern astronomy...