It’s well documented that women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Historically, they’ve dealt with a variety of hurdles to entering and staying in these fields, ranging from fighting for access to higher education and labs, to being forced to sit behind screens in class “so as not to disrupt male students.” In celebration of International Women’s Day, here are just a few of the women who made remarkable contributions to the STEM fields despite these barriers.
Geneticist Nettie Stevens discovered sex chromosomes in 1905, leading to the understanding that an organism’s genetics determine its sex.
Austrian physicist Lise Meitner co-discovered nuclear fission but was overlooked by the Nobel committee awarding the prize for the work.
Alice August Ball
Alice August Ball was a chemist who created an injectable treatment for Leprosy that doctors used for years to relieve symptoms.
Ada King, also known as Ada Lovelace, was a mathematician who created one of the first machine algorithms ever, written for a hypothetical computer. She is often referred to as the world’s first computer programmer.
Before the invention of electronic computers, mathematician Katherine Johnson worked as a “computer” for NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), making calculations critical to the first American astronaut’s trip to space and the Apollo Moon landing program.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars, neutron stars that emit beams of radiation, when she was serving as a research assistant at the University of Cambridge.
Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu carried out an experiment disproving parity law, shattering a fundamental concept of nuclear physics.