6 Figures In Academia Who Were Not Credited For Their Work — Educitizen

Know the feeling of pouring your blood sweat and tears into something you are passionate about and not getting credit for it? Well, these amazing and intellectual individuals know or have known it all too well.

1. Creola Katherine Johnson

Johnson was an African-American woman, born on August 26, 1918. Johnson graduated from high school at age 14, and at age 18, she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Mathematics and French from West Virginia State. She then worked as a “computer” in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The success of the first and the subsequent U.S crewed spaceflights depended on Johnson, as her calculations were extremely crucial. She helped initiate the use of computers to carry out tasks.

Johnson was also one of the first African-American women to work as a scientist in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). When she was assigned to the Project Mercury spaceflights, her role included calculating launch windows, trajectories, and emergency return paths. Right before John Glen went on the mission to orbit the earth, he specifically requested for Johnson to verify the calculations that were calculated by the electronic computers. Subsequently, Johnson worked on many NASA projects including Apollo 11, Apollo 13, and the Space Shuttle Mission among other things. In 2015, President Obama awarded Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Johnson passed away at a retirement home on February 24, 2020. Her story was documented in the movie Hidden Figures (2016) directed by Theodore Melfi

2. Rosalind Franklin

Franklin was born on July 25, 1920 in London to a Jewish family. Franklin was a chemist and crystallographer (a person who examines the structure and properties of crystals), whose work was crucial to the comprehension of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, graphite and coal. Franklin was famous for taking pictures of DNA using X-ray crystallography. The most notable one was Photo 51, which Jim Watson and Francis Crick used to determine the right structure of DNA. Franklin delivered a lecture in November 1951, where Jim Watson was present.

Franklin was the first to discover and formulate that phosphate units are located in the external part of the molecule. Her data has substantial importance on the stability of the molecule. In February 1953, Franklin completed her research, and on April 15, 1953 Crick and Watson published their model in Nature, based on the general knowledge of Franklin and Maurice Wilkins’s unpublished contribution. In 1962, Crick and Watson were awarded a Nobel Prize for their work. Franklin died of ovarian cancer on April 16, 1958. Her contributions were only recognised after her death, which was a shame because Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously. In 1987, Franklin’s stolen discovery was filmed in Life Story: The Race for the Double Helix.

3. Wu Chien Shiung

Wu was born on May 31, 1912 in Suzhou China. She moved to the USA in 1936 for graduate school in Berkeley. Wu eventually became an American citizen who was a particle and experimental Physicist. She significantly contributed to the nuclear and particle physics fields. She was crucial to the Manhattan Project as she helped develop the process of splitting uranium into Uranium 235 and Uranium 238 isotopes by way of gaseous diffusion. She was particularly famous for the Wu Experiment which she rigorously conducted and subsequently proved that parity is not conserved.

In the mid-1950s, Yang Chen-Ning and Lee Tsung Dao questioned a hypothetical law on the conservation of parity. Wu, an expert on beta decay, carried out the experiment for Yang and Lee, by using a sample of Cobalt-60 (an isotope that decays by beta particle emission). Wu cooled the Cobalt-60 sample to cryogenic temperatures by using liquid gases. This experiment was later known as the Wu Experiment. Wu was later known as the Queen of Nuclear Research. However, in 1957, only Lee and Yang won the Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1978, Wu was awarded the inaugural Wolf Prize in physics, although, her discovery was not publicly recognised. Wu passed away from a stroke on February 16, 1997.

4. Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner was an Austrian-Swedish physicist born on November 7, 1878. In 1905, Meitner became the first woman from the University of Vienna and the second woman in the world to attain a doctorate in Physics. She was also the first woman to work as a full professor of Physics in Germany. In 1917, Meitner discovered protactinium-231, a radioactive isotope while working as the Department Head at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. In 1938, Meitner and her physicist nephew, Otto Robert Frisch, discovered nuclear fission.

In 1930, Meitner was stripped off from her positions as the Department Head and Professor due to the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws of Nazi-Germany. In 1938, she escaped to Stockholm, Sweden. She continued to work with chemists at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, Otto Hahn and Frizz Strassman, and eventually discovered that bombarding thorium with neutrons formed various isotopes. She corresponded and secretly met with Otto Hahn at Copenhagen in November of the same year. In December, Meitner and her nephew, Frisch worked out the phenomenon of the splitting process and named it “fission” in their report in Nature 1939 (a British weekly Scientific Journal). This discovery eventually led to the evolution of the first atomic bomb during World War II. Given the situation in Nazi-Germany, Otto Hahn published the result without naming Meitner as a co-author. This led to Hahn being awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944. Meitner passed away on November 27, 1968 in Cambridge, England. Her story has been documented in The Path to Nuclear Fission: The Story of Lise Meitner & Otto Hahn (2006) directed by Rosemarie Reed.

5. Flossie Wong-Staal

Wong-Staal or Wong Yee Ching was born in Guangzhou, China on August 27, 1946. After the communist revolution, Wong-Staal fled to Hong Kong with her family. She moved to the USA to attend the University of California to pursue her bachelor’s in Bacteriology, at age 18. She then earned a PhD in molecular biology at UCLA in 1972. In 1975, Wong-Staal became the first researcher to clone HIV. Cool, huh?

She completed the genetic mapping of the virus which made it possible to develop HIV tests. This subsequently assisted the development of blood tests for HIV! During her research, she used radioimmunoprecipitation (what a mouthful!), which is a type of cellular analysis, in order to detect the presence of KS lesions in cells with differing quantities of Tat Protein. Wong-Steal’s findings were crucial in the development of new treatments for AIDS/HIV patients who experience these dangerous lesions. Only in 2019, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Wong-Staal sadly passed away on July 8, 2020.

6. Klara Dan Von Neumann

Dan is a Jewish woman born in Budapest, Hungary on August 18, 1911. She emigrated to the United States with her third husband, John Von Neumann, who was a professor at Princeton University. Von Neumann eventually moved to New Mexico in 1943 to work on the Manhattan Project, while Dan remained in Princeton, working for the office of Population Research. Dan joined her husband in New Mexico after World War II to program the Mathematical Analyser Numerical Integrator and Automatic Computer Model I (MANIAC I). Subsequently, Dan designed new controls and was one of the primary programmers for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). This was the first programmable computer in the world 😱! Dan wrote the preface to Von Neumann’s Siliman Lectures, after his death in 1957. This was eventually published in 1958. Yale University Press later edited and published the Siliman Lectures as The Computer and The Brain. Dan, however, was not listed as an author in the paper. Dan’s death in 1963 and was listed as a suicide.

References:

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/hidden-figures-honored-at-us-capitol-for-congressional-gold-medal

https://appel.nasa.gov/2016/12/21/nasas-hidden-figures-helped-the-agency-make-history/

https://www.thebetterindia.com/21548/indian-women-scientists-list/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/130519-women-scientists-overlooked-dna-history-science

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/unheralded-women-scientists-finally-getting-their-due-180973082/?page=2

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