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Residential Life

Hidden Women in History

By MiaRA 30 Mar 2023

To celebrate Women’s History Month, what better way to pay respect to the amazing impact that women have made throughout history than to pay tribute to those figures that may have been forgotten or kept in the dark!

Recently, the media has made a push towards bringing stories of female triumph forward such as stories such as ‘Hidden Figures’, detailing how a team of black women helped get the first men on the moon. I intend to educate you further on women you may or may not know who contributed to many things you use and are influenced by today!

Katharine Blodgett (1898-1979)

  • Invented the non-reflective coating used on lenses ranging from cameras to glasses
  • The first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge!

Mary Allen Wilkes (born 1937)

  • Responsible for the creation of the first “personal computer” in the world
  • Her work specifically related to the development of LAP6, an operating system with the feature to allow users to edit and make changes to documents in real time
  • After her IT achievements, Mary retrained at Harvard Law and was a practicing trial lawyer!

Rosalind Franklin (born 1920)

  • Captured an image of DNA using X-ray, which proved the double helix theory
  • Francis Crick and James Watson were given access to her work and gained credit for the discovery, however, Rosalind is well respected as the pioneer of this discovery
  • She passed away 4 years before the Noble Prize was awarded due to ovarian cancer

Virginia Apgar (born 1909)

  • A anaesthetic specialist who studied what effects these drugs had on mothers and newborns
  • On observation, she found that babies that were born blue or with breathing difficulties were not appropriately resuscitated and were written off as still born
  • Her work led to the development of the “Apgar Score” which meant that after delivery, the infant was judged on factors such as heart rate, breath, skin colour etc. on a score of 0, 1, or 2.
  • These scores meant children in danger would receive treatment faster and more efficiently, it led to deaths of new-borns dropping from 1/30 in America in the 1950s to 1/500 today

Katsuko Saruhashi (born 1920)

  • In the 1950s, Katsuko discovered that carbon dioxide that was being produced by humans and large industries was directly killing marine life
  • She ensured that her research was brought to the world's attention and created a system for scientists to measure it, such as the Saruhashi table that is still used today
  • Later on in her work, in the 1960s, Katsuko studied that radioactive water had turned up on Japanese shores as a result of nuclear testing of weapons by the United States
  • This research lead to the tightening of ocean laws that governed nuclear experimentation to benefit the environment

Maria Beasley – The life raft

  • In 1882, Maria observed that the lifeboats in place were not effectively preventing loss of life at sea so reinvented the modern lifeboat design
  • Her work has led to thousands of lives being saved, including an estimated 706 when the titanic sank

Beulah Louise Henry (1887-1973)

  • As a female American inventor, Beulah was known for 49 patents and 110 inventions spanning across a variety of sectors
  • Her first invention she designed while she was a university student which was a vacuum-sealed ice cream freezer
  • From there she went on to invent and improve numerous machines including the typewriter that she developed into a protograph, a hair curler, a can opener, and a new and improved sewing machine that prevented threads from tangling

Catia Bastioli (1957-present)

  • In light of climate change and our ever-growing threats on the planet, Catia is an incredible scientist responsible for creating bio-plastics that over 3-8 weeks turn into soil
  • This was created to ultimately serve as a replacement for current plastics and to lead to a reduction in pollution of the planet

Rachel Zimmerman (1972-present)

  • In 1984, 12-year-old Rachel created a piece of software that made it possible for individuals with speech disabilities to have nonverbal communication
  • This software used symbols on a touchpad that was then translated into written language
  • Her invention has been revolutionary for accessibility and communication to this day

All of these amazing women have contributed to the progression of life as we know it. As women’s history month draws to a close, I’d suggest looking at some of the current movies out recently showcasing impactful women in history including;

  • Joy – a female inventors story of success
  • On the Basis of Sex – a biographical drama about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg
  • Radioactive – a true story drama about Marie Curies life and discoveries
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MiaRA Hi I’m Mia and I’m currently in my second year studying Biology. I’m an avid netball player and coach, and I love reading fantasy books in my downtime. I have loved living in London and cycling around Victoria park!
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