History is written by men to suit them and to allow generations to worship them. So it comes as no surprise that our history books have altogether omitted the discoveries and inventions that women have made throughout the course of our civilisation. But when you realise the extent of it, it really gives you a new perspective about just how undeserving we are!
1. Ada Lovelace: Computer Programming
Lovelace collaborated with Charles Babbage to create the first ‘Analytical Machine’. She worked as an interpreter and wrote detailed notes for Babbage, which reveal her proposition for what would eventually become computer programming.
However, historians would go on to dispute her contributions as they could not believe that a woman who rode horses, played harp and read poetry could ever do something as significant as this. She was even called a ‘depressed maniac’ by Babbage historian Bruce Collier. However years later, following the study of these letters, people finally agreed that she was indeed the one who wrote them.
2. Lise Meitner: Nuclear Fission
It was German scientist Lise Meitner who discovered how to split atoms alongside her lab partner Otto Hahn. However, Meitner was Jewish by birth. So when the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s, she was forced to flee the country and Hahn took all the credit for her work. Meitner had allegedly also written the theory of the fission process. But Hahn chose to erase her name when he submitted the research paper and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for it.
3. Elizabeth Magie Phillips: Monopoly
In the 1930s, the game Monopoly was first introduced by Parker brothers and an unemployed heater salesman called Charles Darrow became a millionaire further fulfilling the unpredictability of the ‘American Dream’. But it wasn’t he who invented the game.
Ironically, Elizabeth Magie Phillips had developed the actual game, then called ‘The Landlord’s Game’ to show the perverse results of business monopoly as a protest against billionaires like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. It practically foreshadowed The Great Depression. However, when Darrow discovered it, he corrupted the game and turned it into something that celebrates capitalism and corrupt businesses.
4. Vera Rubin: Dark Matter
Science enthusiasts know just how important Dark Matter is to the universe. Most of everything in the universe consists of Dark Matter. So when Vera Rubin discovered it with astronomer Kent Ford in the 60s and the 70s, she was dubbed a national treasure. However, Ford was still widely credited with the discovery.
5. Esther Lederberg: Microbial Genetics
Esther Lederberg collaborated with her husband Joshua Lederberg on their work, but it was she who discovered the lambda phage—a virus that infecting the E. coli bacteria. She also played a significant role in figuring out how genes are regulated. She also helped discover the process of creating RNA from DNA. However, it was only her husband who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering how bacteria mated.
6. Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Pulsars
Pulsars had remained elusive to astronomers for centuries. However, it was Jocelyn Bell Burnell who studied and discovered the irregular radio pulses during her time at Cambridge. When she showed the discovery to her advisor, their team worked together to find out that those fast-moving celestial objects were actually Neutron stars. So when the Nobel committee decided to award them for this discovery, Burnell was conveniently forgotten and her advisor, Antony Hewish, and Martin Ryle received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974.
7. The ENIAC Programmers: First Electronic Computer
The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer was the first computer ever built. In 1946, six women programmed this electronic computer. However, John Mauchly is often credited for this invention that would go on to change the course of our civilisation.
8. Nettie Stevens: Sex Chromosomes
Nettie Stevens is the one who figured out the connection between chromosomes and the determination of sex. This was unprecedented since genetics was an uncharted frontier back then. However, her mentor E.B. Wilson published those papers before her and is often credited for the discovery.
9. Rosalind Franklin: DNA Double-Helix Structure
Watson and Crick are credited with discovering the double helix formation of DNA. But the fact is that it was Rosalind Franklin who took the X-Ray photographs of DNA’s double-helix structure. As a matter of fact, she presented the photographs in a conference before Watson and Crick which proved that she had already uncovered what Watson and Crick were trying to do. They published their paper in 1953 without giving credit to Franklin, who passed away 5 years later. In 1962, Watson and Crick won a Nobel for said discovery.
10. Hedy Lamarr: Radio Guidance System
In addition to becoming a Hollywood star, Hedy Lamarr collaborated with composer George Antheil to create a new guidance system for torpedoes. The US Navy initially pretended to be uninterested in her creation but then inevitably stole it and by the 1960s, it had been incorporated into their weapon systems. In case you have a problem relating to this, her system was basically the base work for Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth!
If I were to list every woman whose contribution to the world has been erased from history, this would be much, much longer read!