WOMEN
12/28/2016 05:34 pm ET

To Honor Vera Rubin's Life, Learn About 14 Groundbreaking Women Scientists

The astronomer died this week.
World famous astronomer Vera Rubin, who discovered the evidence for "dark matter."
The Washington Post via Getty Images
World famous astronomer Vera Rubin, who discovered the evidence for "dark matter."

Vera Rubin, a juggernaut in the world of astronomy, died on Monday at the age of 88. Rubin was world-famous in her field, best known for her earth-shattering discovery of the evidence for dark matter. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Rubin, you’re not alone ― there are many people who are unaware of the groundbreaking research she conducted in the 1970s that found conclusive evidence for the presence of dark matter in the universe. 

Rubin is one of many women in the STEM field who have made huge contributions to science, and who should be more widely known. As the recent blockbuster “Hidden Figures” demonstrates, the stories of so many women and women of color who have made scientific history often go untold for far too long.  Below are just a few more women scientists behind important discoveries and important firsts who you should know about:

  • Caroline Herschel, 1750-1847
    <a href="http://www.space.com/17439-caroline-herschel.html" target="_blank">Caroline Herschel</a> was a German astronomer who
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    Caroline Herschel was a German astronomer who began a career in science as an assistant to her older brother William, helping him in the building of telescopes in the 1780s. But on her own, Herschel made history by discovering never-before-seen nebulae and star clusters, and becoming the first woman to ever discover a comet. She was also the first British woman to have her scientific research published by the British Royal Society.
  • Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852
    Ada Lovelace was a fascinating figure of the 1840s, a writer and mathematician who also just happened to be the daughter of B
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    Ada Lovelace was a fascinating figure of the 1840s, a writer and mathematician who also just happened to be the daughter of British poet Lord Byron. Lovelace is remembered as the world's first computer programmer, thanks to the algorithm and notes the wrote on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.
  • Maria Mitchell, 1818-1889
    In the 1847, the self-educated astronomer <a href="https://www.mariamitchell.org/about/about-maria-mitchell" target="_blank">
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    In the 1847, the self-educated astronomer Maria Mitchell made history when she became the first person to discover a comit's orbit using a telescope. Her discovery led to her becoming the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the first woman to teach astronomy at an accredited academic institution (Vassar College in 1865).
  • Elizabeth Blackwell, 1821-1910
    Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman on the UK Medical Registry, and <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/eliza
    Bettmann via Getty Images
    Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman on the UK Medical Registry, and the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States in 1849. Born in Bristol, England, Blackwell would later become a strong advocate for the presence of women in medicine, and co-founded the UK's National Health Society in 1871.
  • Alice Augusta Ball, 1892-1916
    Alice Augusta Ball died at only 24, but she left an indelible mark in the world of science <a href="http://www.clutchmagonlin
    Public Domain
    Alice Augusta Ball died at only 24, but she left an indelible mark in the world of science thanks to groundbreaking research towards a cure for leprosy, a technique known as the Ball Method that was used to successfully treat patients of the disease for decades after her death. In 1914, Ball became the first woman and the first black person to graduate with a masters degree in chemistry from the University of Hawaii. She later became the first woman to teach chemistry at the university.
  • Irène Joliot-Curie, 1897-1956
    Marie Curie is widely known for her research on radioactivity which made her the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. But her da
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    Marie Curie is widely known for her research on radioactivity which made her the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. But her daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, made equally important discoveries in chemistry, winning a Nobel Prize of her own in 1935 for her discovery of artificial radioactivity.
  • Rachel Carson, 1907-1964
    Rachel Carson's work as a marine biologist sparked an environmental movement that led to actual change&nbsp;<i>across the wor
    CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
    Rachel Carson's work as a marine biologist sparked an environmental movement that led to actual change across the world. In 1962 Carson published her greatest piece of scientific work, "Silent Spring," which exposed the dangerous properties of the pesticide DDT, leading to an eventual ban in America.
  • Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu, 1912-1997
    Born in the Jiangsu province of China in 1912, physicist Chien-Shiung Wu was the first woman to win the Research Corporation
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    Born in the Jiangsu province of China in 1912, physicist Chien-Shiung Wu was the first woman to win the Research Corporation Award after providing the first experimental proof, along with scientists from the National Bureau of Standards, that the principle of parity conservation does not hold in weak subatomic interactions. In the 1940s she was recruited by Columbia University on the Manhattan Project, during which time her research on radiation and uranium helped debunk a long-held law of parity. In 1957, Wu would be excluded as a recipient of the Nobel Prize for the breakthrough, with her male colleagues receiving the award instead.
  • Gertrude Elion, 1918-1999
    American biochemist <a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1988/elion-facts.html" target="_blank"
    Bettmann via Getty Images
    American biochemist Gertrude Elion changed the lives of millions when, in the mid 80s, she developed several vital new drugs and treatments, including the first immunosuppressive drug used for organ transplants. Elion not only devised radical new treatments for leukemia, her work also laid the foundation for the development of AZT, the life-saving AIDS medication.
  • Rosalind Franklin, 1920-1958
    Without Rosalind Elsie Franklin, our knowledge of DNA today simply would not be the same. In 1956, the British chemist&nbsp;p
    Universal History Archive via Getty Images
    Without Rosalind Elsie Franklin, our knowledge of DNA today simply would not be the same. In 1956, the British chemist played a huge role in the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. However, Franklin's work was later attributed to her colleagues James Watson and Francis Crick. The men won a Nobel Prize in 1962, for which Franklin (who died in 1958 at age 37) was excluded.
  • Patricia Bath, 1942-Present
    Not only was <a href="https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_26.html" target="_blank">Patricia Bath</a> the firs
    Jemal Countess via Getty Images
    Not only was Patricia Bath the first black woman surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center, she is also a prolific inventor in the world of optometry. In 1981, Patricia Bath developed the Laserphaco Probe, a medical tool for cataract removal. The invention made her the first African American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention.
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell, 1943-Present
    Hailing from&nbsp;Northern Ireland, Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist who in 1967, as a grad student,<a href="http://
    Colin McPherson via Getty Images
    Hailing from Northern Ireland, Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist who in 1967, as a grad student, became the first person to ever observe radio pulsars. Unfortunately, her male advisor and another male colleague ended up receiving the credit for the discovery instead of her, getting the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery in 1974.
  • Mary-Claire King, 1946-Present
    Mary-Claire King is responsible for making the game-changing discovery of the <a href="http://www.sciences360.com/index.php/e
    Mat Hayward via Getty Images
    Mary-Claire King is responsible for making the game-changing discovery of the Chromosome 17 genetic marker, a chromosome which research found to be at the root cause of several diseases. King's research in the 1970s and 80s proved that breast cancer can be hereditary, and therefore identified and prevented before cancer begins to grow. Her findings led to the later discovery and testing techniques for BRCA1, the gene that causes breast-cancer.
  • Dr. Wanda M. Austin, 1954-Present
    Dr. Wanda M. Austin is the former <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/05/business/la-fi-himi-austin-20140105" targe
    Bob Chamberlin via Getty Images
    Dr. Wanda M. Austin is the former president and chief executive officer of The Aerospace Corporation, an organization that engineers America's national security space program. In an extremely white and male dominated field, Austin has become a leader in the aerospace field, particularly in simulation and system engineering.

Of course, this list represents just a fraction of the amazing women who have contributed to science. Hopefully, the stories of these women can inspire us all to not only take a deeper interest in science, but also in the women who have paved the way in the field. 

 

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