As a former student of biology and history of science, the topic of women in science is one that is near to my heart. These three portraits feature three 20th century women scientists who made seminal contributions to their fields: Barbara McClintock in genetics, Grace Hopper in computer science, and Chien-Shiung Wu in nuclear physics.
The idea of a pantheon isn’t limited only to figures in traditional mythologies. Famous figures in modern times, when present in our collective consciousness, can also form their own pantheons. With this project I explored the roles of prominent 20th century women scientists: the symbols associated with them and their work, the larger-than-life nature of their accomplishments, and their contributions to their respective fields.
[genetics] Barbara McClintock’s most famous accomplishment is the discovery of transposons, or jumping genes. She used phenotypic color variations in corn kernels to study transposable elements. She received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983.
[computer science] Grace Hopper invented the first compiler for a programming language, helped develop COBOL (one of the first high-level programming languages), and popularized the term “debugging” after removing a moth from a computer. She was also a US Navy Rear Admiral and an avid teacher, among her many accomplishments.
[nuclear physics] Chien-Shiung Wu was an experimental physicist and one of the leading experts in her time on beta decay. She is best known for conducting the Wu experiment, the results of which contradicted the then-widely accepted law of conservation of parity. She was also a respected professor.