It is becoming more widely accepted that women’s contributions to all fields of science have been downplayed over hundreds of years. The suspicion remains that many of the male scientists that we are familiar with today stole ideas or credit from the women in science who shared their lives.
These women of science often assisted their more famous male counterparts in experiments and came up with ideas no less brilliant than theirs. Despite this, they often lacked the ability to have them taken seriously by the scientific establishment, for no better reason than because they were women. Sometimes the only way to enable an idea to see the light of day and to have it considered, tested and improved upon by their peers seems to have been to allow a prominent man to take the credit.
That must have been utterly galling. The idea that some of the brightest minds on earth had to hide their own light under a bushel while at the same time aggrandising the name and reputation of a man who possessed a lesser mind than theirs is almost unthinkable in its cruelty. It is sadly true nonetheless.
In an effort to belatedly redress some of this imbalance, we are starting a series of articles on some of the most remarkable female minds of the last few hundred years. We are chronicling their achievements and pointing out the theories that may have been purloined and/or misattributed to men they were close to.
Women in Science
The first in our series is Mary Fairfax Somerville, a Scottish Polymath who the word “Scientist” was first coined to describe.
In what was possibly the human race’s finest moment, we landed on the moon on July 20th 1969. The second woman on our list made the moon landings possible. Katharine Johnson, an African-American scientist calculated the orbital mechanics of space flight and the moon landings, also helping to pioneer the use of computers to assist in calculations.