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Nov 08, 2016 10:25 AM EST

5 Least Known Female Scientists Who Changed Science


When it comes to women in STEM, two of the first names that come to mind are Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace. However, there are more female scientists throughout history who have helped shape modern science. Some of them were not recognized, even robbed of the honor that were due them at that time.

Caroline Herschel

Self-described Cinderella of the family, Caroline was the younger sister of astronomer William Herschel. She assisted her brother in building telescopes and became a brilliant astronomer herself. She was a woman of many firsts - the first woman to discover a comet and went on to discover seven more; the first to get her works published by the Royal Society; and the first woman to get paid for her work. She discovered a total of 2,500 star clusters in her lifetime.

Mary Sommerville

Mary Sommerville became interested in math and algebra when she was just 14 years old and pursued it until her adult life. She conducted various studies on magnetism and wrote several articles on chemistry, mathematics, physics, and astronomy. She also translated Pierre-Simon Laplace's "The Mechanism of the Heavens" to English, which became an important textbook in astronomy. She was also named as an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society along with Caroline Herschel.

Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell's father encouraged her to pursue astronomy and asked her to help him check the accuracy of chronometers. He also taught her how to use a reflecting telescope and a sextant. At 17, she had already established her own school teaching girls science and math. Mitchell was also a woman of many firsts. She was the first woman to get elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the first female astronomy professor in the United States.

Lise Meitner

This Austrian-Jewish scientist was the one coined the term nuclear fission after she calculated the how much energy was released when a uranium atom split after bombarded with neutrons. Nuclear fission, of course, led to the development of the nuclear bomb. She and Otto Hahn had been life-long collaborators; however, her work and contributions to atomic research were overlooked.

Rosalind Franklin

History has credited James Watson and Francis Crick for the discovery of the DNA structure. However, the foundation of their work was based on Rosalind Franklin's studies. She had studied the techniques of X-ray crystallography, after which she took X-ray photos of DNA. She was on the verge of discovering the structure of the molecule when fellow researcher Maurice Wilkins showed the images to Watson. The three men received a Nobel Prize for that without any mention of Franklin.

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