Left: Sir William Herschel and Caroline Herschel. Coloured lithograph by A.Diethe. Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom - CC BY.
https://www.europeana.eu/en/item/9200579/hs76suwh. Right: Caroline Herschel, aged 92. Stipple engraving by J. Brown. Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom - CC BY. https://www.europeana.eu/en/item/9200579/cehe44wc.
Women’s contributions have often been underemphasized or left out of the History of Science. While gaining some fame for their contributions to midwifery and gynecology, as well as for their development of treatments for common injuries and ailments, pioneers such as Agnodike (4th century BCE) and Jane Sharp (c. 1641–1671 CE) were rarely regarded as highly as medical men since childbirth and domestic medical practice were imagined as less prestigious “women’s work.”
Women have added to the wealth of human knowledge in the physical, earth, and life sciences, as well as in the fields of engineering and technology, both as patrons and practitioners—making notable discoveries in the fields of anatomy, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, computer science, ecology, genetics, geology, mathematics, oceanography, paleontology, pharmacology, philosophy, physics, physiology, virology, and zoology to name just a few.
“The Way of Progress was Neither Swift nor Easy”1 honors women of science and their innovative spirit—featuring not only towering figures, such as the two-time Nobel Prize-winner, Marie Curie (1867-1934), and “first lady of Physics Research” Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997), but also lesser-known scientists such as Fátima de Madrid (fl. 10th century CE), Alessandra Giliani (1307-1326), Caroline Lucretia Herschel (1750-1848), Anandibai Joshi (1865-1887), Mary Agnes Meara Chase (1869-1963), and Katherine Johnson (1918-2020), as well as important women working in STEM today, such as Sau Lan Wu, (c. 1940s-), Mae C. Jemison (1956- ), Ellen Ochoa (1958-), Cynthia Breazeal (1967-), and Emmanuelle Charpentier (1968-).
1. Curie, M. (1923). Pierre Curie: With Autobiographical Notes (C. Kellogg & V. Kellogg, Trans.). Macmillan. p. 167.
Listen to women from across the [Obama] Administration tell the stories of their personal heroes across the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Share them yourself . . . And honor their legacy by committing to encourage a young woman to pursue a career in science.
From the Obama White House Archives.