There have been countless scientific discoveries over the past centuries. Scientists came up with countless inventions, uncovered the secrets of life, discovered equations that could sum up the secrets of the world and the galaxy… However, there are some people we do not talk about enough. Some that we forget.
Ever since I heard the story of Rosalind Franklin, I waited to be taught about her in school so we could have a discussion. It never happened. When I heard Hedy Lamarr’s story, I wondered why no one mentioned this genius of a woman. There are so many names that I learned outside of school that I should’ve heard in my first science classes. However, I was even further shocked when I heard about Watson and Crick each year in science classes.
Don’t get me wrong, their work was crucial to the scientific community and still affects us to this day. However, there is something wrong with the way we learn about them. Simply, we learn that Watson and Crick discovered the DNA’s structure (among many other things, this is an oversimplification) and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. What we never learned was Photo 51, Rosalind Franklin, her work, and her contributions to this discovery. Photo 51 was the first ever image taken of the DNA double helix in 1952. This was one of the main factors that led to Watson and Crick’s discovery. If it wasn’t for Franklin, the discovery of the double helix wouldn’t be easy, and maybe would’ve taken many more years to come. However, she never was and still isn’t properly accredited for her work. What happened is she passed away a few years after the discovery, was never properly recognized and Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have won or anything along those lines, I’m saying the right person never got the respect she deserved. There’s something wrong with that.
Hedy Lamarr is a film actress. She was truly amazing. But what’s less known (or was less known until a few years ago) is that she was an even greater inventor. She is responsible for our daily lives today. She invented frequency hopping technology, she was the “mother of Wi-Fi.” Her work was the basis of GPS systems, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Her patent was ignored by the U.S. Navy and a group of men got credited with inventing Wi-Fi for years instead. No one cared about Hedy Lamarr’s inventions, she was pretty and that was good enough. That’s not normal.
Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission alongside Otto Hahn. Hahn won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1944. Meitner didn’t. Her name wasn’t on the publication even though it was their discovery together. She still isn’t widely accredited for her work. Dr. Grace Murray Hopper created the first computer language to program the Harvard Mark I computer. History notes that John von Neumann initiated the computer’s program. She received no credit. Esther Lederberg worked with her husband to research genetic transfer in bacteria. Only her husband received the Nobel Prize in 1958 instead. Katherine Johnson calculated the paths of the spacecraft for the moon landing, she was incredibly smart and was never fully accredited until a movie was made about her in 2017. There are so many more women that I could list off. However, as I write these names and stories down, I realize how many more scientists went by undiscovered. I wonder how many more stories we will learn about in a few decades. Perhaps many more people will get robbed of the respect they deserve for their life’s work. And all we can do is make movies about them decades later or see them in short online articles. That is not right.