ROSALIND JERRIE MARY

SHE-LOGY: “No, because you’re a woman.”

Celebrating remarkable women who made history but didn’t entirely make it to the “history books”. Whether gender is the reason why they are denied of recognition or opportunity is often a source of debate. May we know more about them, may we know more of them, and may they all be given the recognition that they deserve.

ROSALIND FRANKLIN. Born 1920. Pioneer Molecular Biologist.

Sorry, no Nobel Prize for you.

Hers is perhaps one of the most well-known—and shameful—
instances of a researcher being robbed of credit, 
said Lewin Sime.
Her name seems to have become synonymous to gender bias against women in science.
Rosalind used x-rays to take a picture of DNA that would change biology. Her photo -known as Photo 51–enabled James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins to determine the DNA structure and enabled them to publish articles on the research and discovery of DNA. These 3 male scientists later on jointly received a Nobel Prize for the double-helix model of DNA in 1962, four years after Franklin’s death at age 37 from ovarian cancer.
Of the 4 DNA researchers, only Rosalind had any degrees in chemistry. She was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of the DNA structure. But why did she not get to share the Nobel Prize for that achievement, along with the other 3 scientists? Some of the “reasons” that circulated include:
  1. Nobel Prize wasn’t awarded posthumously.
  2. Nobel Prize can only be shared by up to 3 recipients.
  3. Wilkins mistook her role as a technical assistant, while Franklin worked in Randall’s lab with the knowledge that she is the head of this project. [Source: sdsc.edu]
  4. “Franklin was unaware of the “race for the double helix” that was in process. She and Gosling drafted an article on the likely molecular structure by mid-March. This appeared, in expanded and modified form, with Watson and Crick’s announcement in Nature on April 25, but the draft was done before they had heard about the Watson-Crick model.” [Source: The DNA Riddle]

Regardless of these controversies, it cannot be denied that Rosalind’s work was crucial to the discovery of the DNA structure. Even if she did not get any Nobel Prize, she is an exemplary woman just for being a female scientist in her time, for pursuing her teenage dream of becoming a scientist against the wishes of her family, and just for the fact that she graduated with a doctorate in physical chemistry from Cambridge University among her achievements.

Read about The Matilda Effect, which describes the systematic denial of the contributions of women scientists in research.


JERRIE COBB. Born 1931. Aviator.

Sorry, no spaceflight for you.

“The groundbreaking aviator was a member of the Mercury 13 program of the 1950s that evaluated women for spaceflight. Although Cobb was one of the most qualified pilots in the country and deemed “highly qualified” for the astronaut program, she was denied the opportunity to go to space because she was a woman.” [Source: A Mighty Girl]

Mercury 13 aside, Jerrie Cobb has a decent list of record-setting accomplishments:

  • At 12, she first flew in a plane, in her father’s open cockpit 1936 Waco biplane.
  • At 16, she was barnstorming around the Great Plains in a Piper J-3 Cub, dropping leaflets over little towns announcing the arrival of circuses.
  • At 17, she earned her private pilot’s license.
  • At 18, she received her commercial pilot license.
  • At 21, she was teaching men to fly, and delivering military fighters and four-engine bombers to foreign Air Forces worldwide.
  • She went on to set new world records for speed, distance, and absolute altitude while still in her twenties.
  • When she became the first woman to fly in the Paris Air Show, the world’s largest air exposition, her fellow airmen named her Pilot of the Year and awarded her the Amelia Earhart Gold Medal of Achievement. Life Magazine named her one of the nine women of the “100 most important young people in the United States.
  • At 29, she had 7,000 hours of flying time and held 3 world aviation records.

In May 1961, she was appointed as a consultant to the NASA space program.

Read about Mercury 13 to learn more about her efforts to have the astronaut testing project for women resumed, including writing to the President (JFK).This was in the 60s. It was not until 1978 when female astronaut candidates are selected. It was not until 1983 when the astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, and not until 1995 when the first woman, Eileen Collins, piloted the Space Shuttle

[Source: Wikipedia]


MARY ANNING. Born 1799. Paleontologist.

Sorry, no published work for you.

Because she was a woman, fossil hunter Mary Anning (1799-1847) was unable to publish her discoveries, known as “some of the most significant geological finds of all time.” [Source: CNN Mapping History’s “invisible women”]

“The greatest fossil hunter ever known. Her discoveries were some of the most significant geological finds of all time. They provided evidence that was central to the development of new ideas about the history of the Earth. Her contribution had a major impact at a time when there was little to challenge the biblical interpretation of the story of creation and of the flood. The spectacular marine reptiles that Anning unearthed shook the scientific community into looking at different explanations for changes in the natural world. Many scientists owe their achievements to her. By the time of her death, geology was firmly established as its own scientific discipline.” [Source: Natural History Museum]

Throughout her life, she was an outsider in the very field that she excelled in and made significant contributions to.  While she was well-known in the geological circles in Europe and America, consulted on issues of anatomy and about collecting fossils, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions.

Although Anning knew more about fossils and geology than many of the wealthy fossilists to whom she sold, it was always the gentlemen geologists who published the scientific descriptions of the specimens she found, often neglecting to mention her name.

Torrens writes that these slights to Anning were part of
a larger pattern of ignoring the contributions
of working-class people in early 
19th-century scientific literature.

Charles Dickens wrote an article about her life in February 1865 in his literary magazine All the Year Round that emphasised the difficulties she had overcome, especially the scepticism of her fellow townspeople. He ended the article with: “The carpenter’s daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it.”[3]

[Source: Wikipedia]


SHE-LOGY is a blog project open to everyone who is interested to celebrate women this whole month of March. If you’re reading this, I extend that invitation to you to contribute post/s about the women you’d like to honor. You can email me at silverliningmama@gmail.com. Thank you for reading this.

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3 thoughts on “ROSALIND JERRIE MARY

  1. It is amazing to me how many remarkable women are deleted from the science and history books. My grandmother was a chemist. She was born in 1902, was motherless and sent to live with nuns. Against all odds she went to university and became a chemist. She lived in a male world and was respected within that circle. But, no credit ever was bestowed on her. Thank you for doing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the appreciation. These women are truly remarkable, the least I can do is spread the word. Your grandma should be part of She-logy! How admirable these women before us who have risen higher than the station they were forced into just because of their gender. They have tremendously helped the newer generations to push for gender equality.

      Liked by 1 person

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