Five women in STEM who changed the world

Posted Dec 6, 2018 by Tim Sandle
Women are continuing to push forward in STEM fields and are becoming a bigger part of the sciences. However, women still only constitute 30 percent of all scientists.
A microbiologist undertakes molecular testing into an unknown bacterium. Photograph taken in Tim San...
A microbiologist undertakes molecular testing into an unknown bacterium. Photograph taken in Tim Sandle's laboratory.
Many young women are able students in the STEM field. However, female high school students with high testing scores in STEM are less likely to choose a STEM university program than men with lower scores, according to Jennifer Flanagan, CEO of Actua. While the data indicates that women are just as capable in terms of achievement to pursue high education in STEM, they aren't choosing to enter the field at the rate men are.
There are various campaigns designed to raise awareness and to attract women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The inaugural #MovetheDial Global Summit in Toronto, which kicked off the MovetheDial Connect mentorship platform, is a prime example of such a campaign.
A number of women have been successful in STEM fields. We take a brief look at five of them, with a view to inspiring others.
Marie Curie
Madam Curie is the only women in history to win two Nobel Prizes. Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. Among her many achievements are the development of the theory of radioactivity, techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements, polonium and radium.
"I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy." - Marie Curie.
Rosalind Franklin
Franklin is best known for her work on X-Ray diffraction images of DNA. Her infamous Photo 51 led to the discovery of the double helix structure by Watson, Crick, and Wilkins in 1962. Franklin also made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite. Her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely recognized posthumously.
"Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment." - Rosalind Franklin.
Barbara McClintock
McClintock was an American scientist and cytogeneticist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1983. McClintock studied chromosomes and how they change during reproduction in maize - she put forwards the notion of genetic recombination by crossing-over during meiosis—a mechanism by which chromosomes exchange information.
"If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off... no matter what they say." - Barbara McClintock.
Dian Fossey
Fossey's life has been famously depicted in the 1988 film "Gorilla's in the Mist" which is an adaptation of her book of the same title. She is known for undertaking an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups. During her time in Rwanda, she actively supported conservation efforts, strongly opposed poaching and tourism in wildlife habitats.
Rachel Carson
Carson is credited with starting the grassroots environmental movement. Carson was an U.S. marine biologist who write the book "Silent Spring" which concerned with the risks from the use of human-made pesticides like DDT. The book also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” - Rachel Carson.
Sheila Widnall
Widnall was a specialist in the field of aeronautics. Widnall became the first woman to serve as a Department chair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1986, she was named the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics in that university. Widnall later became Secretary of the Air Force under the Clinton Administration, from 1993 until 1997 - the only woman ever to head one of the military services.