Mary Anning (1799-1847) – Palaeontology
Born in1799, Mary Anning was an English fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist. Anning searched for fossils at Dorset’s Blue Lias cliffs, particularly during the winter months when landslides exposed new fossils that if not collected immediately would end up lost to the sea. Her discoveries included the first ichthyosaur skeleton correctly identified; the first two complete plesiosaur skeletons found, the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany and important fish fossils. Being a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and so, rarely received any credit for her scientific contributions. She is told to have inspired the tongue-twister “She sells seashells on the seashore”
Lise Meitner (1878 –1968) – Physics
Born in 1878 in Vienna to a Jewish family, Lise Meitner studied physics under Ludwig Boltzmann. Later on in 1907, she went to Berlin to study with Max Planck and the chemist Otto Hahn. Hahn and Meitner worked together to study radioactivity, and with her knowledge of physics and his knowledge of chemistry In 1918, they discovered the element protactinium. In 1923, Meitner discovered the radiationless transition known as the Auger effect, named for Pierre Victor Auger, a French scientist who discovered the effect two years later and is now credited for it. Hahn and Meitner met in secret in Copenhagen, where they planned experiments to prove the existence of nuclear fission .In 1944, Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his research into fission, but Meitner was ignored because Hahn made her look insignificant since she fled Germany. In 1992, element 109, Meitnerium, the heaviest known element in the universe, was named in her honour.
Barbara McClintock (1902 –1992) – Botany and Medicine
Born in 1902 Barbara McClintock was a botanist and cytogeneticist. Her studies were mainly about maize and how it changes in reproduction. She developed a technique to visualise their reproduction and used microscopes to demonstrate her ideas. She came up with the idea of genetic recombination during crossing over in meiosis and also the idea of transposition. This idea implied that genes could be activated and deactivated. Her work received a lot of doubt and so she discontinued publishing it ,however in the 60’s and 70’s she was proven to have been right and proceeded to win the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Till this day she is the only woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in this category.
Jane Cooke Wright (1919 –2013)-Medicine
Born in Manhattan 1919, Jane Cooke Wright followed her father and grandfather’s footsteps and became a doctor, battling both gender and racial bias in a profession mostly practiced by white men. She was a cancer researcher at a clinic her father had founded. Her studies mainly focused on how different drugs affected different types of tumours. She was the first person to discover methotrexate, a pioneer drug in the development in chemotherapy. Wright also wrote a chemotherapy protocol that increased the lifespan of skin cancer patients by even 10 years. She served on many boards, received various awards and was the first woman elected president of the New York Cancer Society.