To wrap up Women’s History Month, here is our tribute to four more groundbreaking female scientists in the fields of physics, physiology, and chemistry.
Chien Shiung-Wu, 1912 – 1997
Dr. Chien Shiung-Wu, also known as the First Lady of Physics and the Queen of Nuclear Research, played a formative role in nuclear science, beta decay, and weak interaction physics. Born in Liu Ho, China in 1912, she completed her undergraduate degree at the National Central University of Nanking in 1936 and earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. During World War II, she joined the Manhattan project and helped develop a method to mass produce enriched uranium ore as fuel for nuclear bombs. After the war, she worked as a research assistant at Columbia University. With her colleagues Dr. Tsung-Dao Lee and Dr. Chen Ning Yang, she experimentally invalidated the principle of conservation of parity for which Lee and Yang won the Nobel Prize. Despite missing out on this honor, she received many other awards and titles in recognition for her achievements such as the National Medal of Science, the National Academy of Sciences Cyrus B. Comstock Award in Physics, and the Research Corporation Award.
Marie Maynard Daly, 1921 – 2003
Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, the first African-American woman to obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States, made significant contributions to the studies of human digestion and proteins, cell nucleus composition, and cigarette smoke. Her work in digestion led to the discovery of the correlation between cholesterol and clogged arteries. This acted as a stepping stone for future research looking at the relationship between diet and cardiovascular health. Later in life, she became an education advocate and started a scholarship program for minority students wanting to study science at Queens College.
Shirley Jackson, 1946 – present
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is a theoretical physicist whose early work in layered systems and condensed matter physics formed the fundamentals for communications technology such as caller ID, call waiting, and fiber optic cables. Her numerous leadership positions include chairman of the US Nuclear Regulations Commission, chairman of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and co-chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. She holds over 50 honorary doctoral degrees and received numerous prestigious awards such as the National Medal of Science and President’s Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Flossie Wong-Staal, 1947 – present
Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal, born Yee Ching Wong, is known best for her work with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). After completing her primary education in China, she moved to the United States at the age of 18 to obtain her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from UCLA in bacteriology and molecular biology respectively. From there she moved to Maryland to work at the National Cancer Institute with Robert Gallo to find the cause of AIDS. In 1985, she became the first researcher to clone HIV, a significant step towards mapping the virus and developing HIV blood test protocols. Although she is now retired from academia, she continues working in bacteriology and retroviruses as vice president and chief scientific officer of iTherX.
Mildred Dresselhaus – “Queen of Carbon,” researched nanomaterial and electronic structure with carbon and semi-metals
Esther Miriam Zimmer Lederburg – discovered lambda phage and made significant contributions in bacterial genetics
Sara Josephine Baker – revolutionized infant care in New York City and famously tracked down “Typhoid Mary” twice
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