Unsung Women in History: Scientists

By Leah Boelkins on March 20, 2017 

Women working in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) today are few and far between. While approximately 48% of the United States workforce is comprised of women, only 24% of the STEM field consists of women. Even today, Marie Curie is one of the only female scientists in history who has become a household name. While women have been making strides in these fields for years, there is still a long way to go. Check out these three unsung women heroes in the past who have paved the way for women and girls who want to pursue careers in STEM fields:

Dr. Mae Jemison

Mae Carol Jemison made history in September of 1992 when she became the first African-American female to travel to space. Jemison had been interested in science since she was in grade school as she spent much of her time reading about astronomy in her school’s library. She later in high school decided that she wanted to become a biomedical engineer and then furthered her education at Stanford University on scholarship. In her career, she, along with six other astronauts, flew into space conducting several experiments over a span of eight days. After her experience, Jemison emphasized how much minority groups could contribute to science and society if provided with the right opportunities.

Edith Clarke

Edith Clarke paved the way for women and girls looking to enter the STEM fields today as she was the first female electrical engineer in the United States. Before finding a job at General Electric, Clarke struggled to find work as engineering was not a “typical” or “normal” job for women during the early 20th Century. She worked as a “computer,” essentially performing extremely complicated mathematical equations during a time in which calculators and computers as we know today did not exist. After her career in the field, Clarke became a professor of electrical engineering, further serving as a model for women who were passionate about working in the STEM fields.

Cecilia H Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia H Payne-Gaposchkin was an American astronomer born in Great Britain. She began a successful career in astronomy in the United States at Harvard after receiving a fellowship to study there. Much of her work revolved around researching the Milky Way Galaxy and stars, as she made the discovery that stars are made up mainly of hydrogen and helium. In addition to this, Payne-Gaposchkin was the first woman to be a full time professor at Harvard and was the first woman to be a department chair at Harvard after she was appointed to this position at the Department of Astronomy.