WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

Posted May 21, 2007 10:40 AM by julie

Many people can name but a handful of great engineers and scientists. Even fewer can name great engineers and scientists who were women. Today, I present for your consideration – in no particular order – those women I consider to be the greatest engineers and scientists of all time. Some have already been profiled on CR4. Others will be featured in the weeks and months to come. So, please, let us know what you think! Which women deserve our consideration? Based on your feedback, we'll schedule blog entries accordingly.

Marie Curie - Chemist and physicist

Grace Murray Hopper - Computer scientist and admiral

Rosalind Elsie Franklin - Scientist

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin - Chemist and X-ray crystallographer

Lady Augusta Ada Brown, Countess of Lovelace - Computer programmer

Florence Nightingale - Nurse

Beatrix Potter - Mycologist, writer

Ellen Swallow Richards – Chemist and educator, home economics

Emily Roebling - Engineer

Dian Fossey - Primatologist

Sophie Germain - Mathematician

Jane Goodall - Ethologist

Wangari Maathai - Conservationist and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Margaret Mead - Anthropologist

Sally Ride - Astrophysicist and astronaut

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/21/2007 11:29 PM

What about Maria Sklodowska Curie, winner of the Nobel price twice for discovery of the phenomenon of radioactivity and further work in the area. The name does sound english enough, does it?

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 8:57 AM

Thanks for the reply! My first listing is actually for Maria Sklodowska Curie, known in France as Marie Curie. We'll be featuring her shortly!

Julie

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 9:27 AM

Hi Guest,

Maria Curie was one of the first people we profile in the Great Engineers and Scientists Blog.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 9:44 AM

Oops,

I didn't even realize she had been featured already in our other general blog about Great Engineers and Scientists. I added the specific link above so you can check her story out. Please also note there are other great women engineers and scientists featured in this other blog including, Katherine Blodgett, Sarah Boone, and Sofia Kovalevskaya.

Julie

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#2

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 12:29 AM

And you can thank the the beautiful actress Hedy Lamarr for your digital cell phones. She invented spread spectrum technology before it was possible to actually do it!

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 8:58 AM

Thanks for the suggestion! We'll definitely add her to our list.

Julie

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Anonymous Poster
#7

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 2:49 PM

While I am very much in favor of highlighting the accomplishments of the fair sex, I believe the impact of some of the women listed should be looked at in the long term. For example, I dont particularly believe that Margret Mead should be touted as a great scientist. The removal of DDT from the marketplace may have helped save a few birds and small mammals in the developed world, but DDT was arguably the best means of combating malaria available. Now that it is not available, 3rd world countries are still ravaged by this deadly parasitic disease; take Kenya, for example, where in some ocations up to 80% of the people have contracted it and require repeated treatments. In the US and many places where DDT was used to basically iradicate the parasite, we dont have the problem.

To me a great scientist is one that solves a problem, not one that generates other probhlems by solving the first.

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#9
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Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 3:43 PM

You raise an interesting point. How are we to know if current, lauded accomplishments of any engineer or scientist won't have some kind of future, negative ramifications for our society or environment? While I would disagree that the elimination of DDT was a bad thing because of its proven negative impact on our environment, there are probably many more examples we can think of.

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#12
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Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 7:05 PM

The removal of DDT is still being questioned today because it has never been replaced with a like effective agent. When a DDT factory closed down in Memphis the accepted ppm limits for a toxic fat content in humans was 50ppm. So the health authorities decided to test 2 workers that had been at the plant for 25-30 years. They came back with fat levels above 800ppm and were showing no signs of any health problems-these guys were in their 60's!!!

So while mosquitoes are killing and debilitating millions with malaria and other diseases every year the environment is safe!! I guess if you live in a mosquito free area West Nile Virus is not a concern ,but for those that do the lack of DDT usage is still looming as an unanswered question as to what trade offs are worth what!!

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#13
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Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 10:02 PM

It seems to me that there are trade offs. Short term gains verses long-term consequences. When the long-term consequences may be grave but yet can't be certainly known what shall we do. Forge ahead and see what happens is not always the best decision. DDT kills bees. That alone is enough reason for me. Other methods have been developed to effectively deal with mosquitoes but are the as easy? Is it absolutely certain that continued use would have completely eliminated the problem? Or would it just have been dumping more toxins into the environment while the pests developed a resistance to the agent and then what you have is only short-term gain and long term consequences. Difficulties and regulations challenge technology to come up with better solutions so why be satisfied with a dirty solution that is short term with nasty side effects?

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#8

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 3:22 PM

How about Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and her contributions in the development of COBOL?

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#10
In reply to #8

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 3:44 PM

We featured Grace Hopper not that long ago. Check out her profile here: Grace Murray Hopper.


She was quite an accomplished engineer.

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#11

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/22/2007 6:47 PM

If you check out Margaret Thatcher besides being the British Prime Minister she was a very gifted designer . The Bridge of the Americas in Panama City was designed by her and that was no small feat!! And I'm not even British but I know a gifted gal !!

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#16
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Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/23/2007 12:53 AM

If you visit my 'Nominate an Engineering Hero ' thread you'll see this Thatcher myth de-bunked.

Sorry , Julie. I don't intend to poach , but I couldn't let that pass me by. It's interesting that my gender neutral question has not received a single female nomination. I was going to quietly watch here and see how long it took. Our threads running in paralell is actually very useful in revealing how aware or female engineers people are.

Julie -Your thread is achieving a really worth-while function.

Re Ada ;

Biographers debate the extent of her original contributions, with some holding that the programs were written by Babbage himself. Babbage wrote the following on the subject, in his Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1846)[1]:

I then suggested that she add some notes to Menabrea's memoir, an idea which was immediately adopted. We discussed together the various illustrations that might be introduced: I suggested several but the selection was entirely her own. So also was the algebraic working out of the different problems, except, indeed, that relating to the numbers of Bernoulli, which I had offered to do to save Lady Lovelace the trouble. This she sent back to me for an amendment, having detected a grave mistake which I had made in the process.

Looks like the jury is still out on her programming , though her translation and mathematic work seems undisputed.

To counter my negativity , I hear it said that Watson &Crick 'borrowed ' the double helix model from a woman. I'll dig out my source if it's not already here (can't see list in editor ! )

Kris

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#17
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Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/23/2007 8:49 AM

Thanks for your kind comments Kris!

The woman from whom Watson and Crick borrowed the double helix is Roaslind Franklin who we profiled a while back. She used x-ray diffraction to take pictures of DNA revealing the double helix structure. Watson and Crick used her photographs to prove their model and later went on to win a Nobel Prize. When the prize was awarded Franklin had passed away and since Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously she was not recognized for her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA.


Thank you everyone for all your comments. We hope that all engineers find this blog interesting and inspiring.

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#19
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Gender discrimination ??? The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/23/2007 10:15 AM

I had a post here awhile back about discrimination and egos in the engineering game. In my gut, I still think there is heavy discrimination. Whereas we hide it better now for fear the investors find out we are still jackasses, it is still there. Gender, race, culture, physical and . . . academic! What?!? Academic? Yup. But, let's face it (from my male perspective) there is much less concentration of women in engineering . . . at it gets a bit better in science. My study reveled that educated women migrate to jobs that help people directly and immediately (nursing, teaching) and educated men migrate to jobs that support a lack of self esteem (and they don't know it), [mechanical engineering, civil engineering, rocket science]; for women probably due to the culture of being in the role of bearing and nurturing children (and nurturing lazy men) and for men probably due to a general role of being the hunter, provider (with lower self esteem these days than 100 years ago).

Not on topic, but might be interesting anyway.

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#14

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/23/2007 12:03 AM

What about my mom who conducted the greatest experiment of all time? (notice I said 'conducted' . . . no mention of its success)

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#15

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/23/2007 12:14 AM

. . . or Dr. Sylvia Earle.

You gotta like a gal who has dove to 1000 meters solo. And I can tell you from personal experience she is genuine. She talked to my 14 YO daughter on the phone for 45 minutes like she was our neighbor to help her decide to choose a career in Marine Biology.

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#18
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Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/23/2007 8:50 AM

Another great suggestion. Thank you!

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#20

Re: The Greatest Women Engineers and Scientists

05/23/2007 3:50 PM

18-year old Samantha Larson recently conquered Mount Everest to complete her quest to be the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits. She'll be attending Stanford University in the fall - hopefully we'll see exciting engineering or science feats from her in the future!

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