Today (8 March) is International Women’s Day, so here’s another edition of the ‘Women in Chemistry History’ series. It highlights the contributions of another 12 women in chemistry, covering innovations from understanding cell ageing to testing for diseases.
If you haven’t seen the previous editions of this series, they’re available here: Part 1, part 2, and part 3. There’s also an edition looking at contemporary women in chemistry, and a graphic looking at the women of the periodic table. Additionally, there’s the mammoth ongoing project to highlight contemporary women in chemistry which currently features 170 entries and counting!
The text of this graphic is reproduced below for screenreaders.
Rona Robinson (1884-1962)
The first woman in the UK to gain a first-class degree in chemistry. She later carried out research on dyes and was also a campaigner for women’s suffrage.
Rebeca Gerschman (1903-1986)
The first scientist to suggest that oxygen free radicals damage cells and cause cell ageing. She was nominated for a Nobel Prize but died before being considered.
Ruby Hirose (1904-1960)
Carried out research on serums and antitoxins. Her work contributed to the development of an effective polio vaccine, leading to its near-eradication.
Mary Elliott Hill (1907-1969)
Thought to be the first African American woman to be awarded a master’s degree in chemistry. With her husband, Carl McClellan Hill, developed ketene synthesis.
Mildred Cohn (1913-2009)
Used nuclear magnetic resonance to study the reactions of enzymes and proteins in the human body, particularly focusing on the reactions of ATP.
Asima Chatterjee (1917-2006)
The first woman to receive a doctorate at an Indian university. Carried out research on plant-derived medicines, leading to anti-epileptic and anti-malarial drugs.
Katsuko Saruhashi (1920-2007)
Carried out research showing that seawater releases more carbon dioxide than it absorbs, and also identified radioactive isotopes in seawater due to nuclear testing.
Helen Murray Free (1923-2021)
Worked on the development of test strips for diseases, including urine analysis ‘dip and read’ test strips for UTIs, diabetes and kidney disorders.
Evangelina Villegas (1924-2017)
Worked with Surinder Vasal to improve the amino acid content of maize, making it more nutritious. They were awarded the World Food Prize for their work.
Alma Levant Hayden (1927-1967)
Amongst the first African American scientists to work at the US Food & Drug Administration, where she uncovered Krebiozen as a sham cancer treatment.
Bettye Washington Greene (1935-1995)
Researched latex and polymers at Dow Chemical, which led to several patents. She was the first black woman to work in a professional position at the company.
Margarita Salas (1935-2019)
Discovered an enzyme which can amplify DNA samples, making them large enough for analysis, with important applications in forensics and medical testing.