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May 04 2013

Piano Black – Women in Science

Important!

Piano Black is my co-blogger and general minion (yes. I have a FTB Minion). She’s new to blogging and to the atheism, skepticism and freethought malarky that we engage in. She’s currently a high school student and soon to be college student from Texas. She may or may not like ponies.

It’s a subject that I feel is not talked about enough. As time goes on, women are becoming a force to reckon with in the science world. But where did it all start? And with who? Sadly, I cannot name the great number of women who contributed to science and give the individual homage they deserve. However, I believe this pays homage to the past women, present women, and future women who choose a life of science or anything productive in society.  

For the longest time, science was seen as a man’s topic, but there are numerous women, more than I expected to contribute to this endless area of study. We can go on and on about well-known wonders like Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, but I’d prefer to talk about some new people. I did not know very many names and very much about the women who have contributed in science. A few people I chose to name from a very very long list of women who made contributions will be Grace Murray Hopper, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Nettie Maria Stevens.

Beginning with Hopper, she was born December 9th, 1906 in New York City, she was one of the first lassie’s to dive in head first to the world of computing. In 1928, she graduated from Vassar College with a BA in Mathematics and Physics, earned her MA and PhD at Yale University. She then rose to the challenges of programming the first computers. Le gasp, cool isn’t it? But how exactly did she contribute to it? Mrs. Hopper had made the transition from primitive programming techniques to better sophisticated compilers. When she was constantly told it couldn’t be done, especially not by a woman, she thus questioned the status quo. Developing a drive against the philosophy “We’ve always done it that way” and stating “was not a reason to keep doing it that way.”

Another woman who really made me think critically about contributions in science was Chien-Shiung Wu. She like myself is a Chinese-American that was born in Shanghai, China and got her Bachelor’s Degree in Physics. In order to get where she really wanted to go, Mrs. Wu decided it was necessary to pursue a higher education elsewhere since China did not offer it, so she looked towards America, particularly in California. She chose to study at Berkeley . Majoring in Physics then specializing in experimental Physics and Radioactivity. Her works included contributing to the Manhattan Project, then later performed experiments which helped her in contradicting the “Law of conservation of Party”, which in simpler terms that anything could just be the reciprocal of something like x to -x.  Being referred to as the “Chinese Marie Curie” and “Madame Wu.” Madame Wu also wrote a book called “Beta Decay”, and it still remains relevant today. She died on February 16th, 1997. She is gone but her work still lives on today.

Last but not least, Nettie Maria Stevens. Born in Cavendish, Vermont.  Stevens, being was one of the first female scientists to receive attention in the biological sciences. In 1903 she received a PhD from Bryn Mawr, a liberal arts women’s college.  She was awarded assistant professorship by the Carnegie Institute, however she wanted only a pure research position. Unfortunately, she died of breast cancer before she could start working as a research professor at Bryn Mawr, or even with Davenport at Cold Spring Harbor.

These are three condensed stories of women who pursued their goals and dreams despite all obstacles. What was then portrayed as a man’s  profession was now being explored by a woman. I personally think it’s wonderful we have women like this, to pave the way for future women to continue expanding our knowledge in the universe.

Feminism comes in many different forms, because we all have our own personal interpretation on the matter at hand. But I can rightfully say that women belong in science and that we are just as necessary and capable as our male counterparts. For that we need to encourage more women to think of science as a subject that is universal to them and not as a purely male dominated field.

1 comment

  1. 1
    shockna

    I feel that every discussion of women in science or academia needs a mention of Emmy Noether, so I’ll just leave this here:

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

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