The Student News Site of Bethpage High School

The Eagle's Cry

The Student News Site of Bethpage High School

The Eagle's Cry

The Student News Site of Bethpage High School

The Eagle's Cry

The Eagle’s Cry Investigates Forgotten Figures


Many achieve great accomplishments within their lifetime, and these three women represent only a small fraction. Actions often influence another, but their revolutionary actions come to relate in ways that may be unexpected.

Rosalind Franklin performed many great accomplishments within her career. Her discoveries helped uncover the structure of DNA. At the University of Cambridge she studied x-ray diffraction technology. When she later attended college at King’s College, London, she used her knowledge of x-ray diffraction to apply its use to study DNA. From these x-rays she established the idea of DNA’s helix structure. Unfortunately future discoveries were prevented by her death from cancer in 1958.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell also made discoveries which changed her field. She’s responsible for the discovery of pulsars, the cosmic sources of peculiar radio pulses. When acting as a research assistant at the University of Cambridge, she discovered a series of radio pulses. After relaying this observation to her superiors, they began to look further into the occurrence. With further research they found more patterns and eventually determined all the radio waves came from a neutron star. After this discovery, Burnell held a series of professor positions at universities in England, until her retirement.

Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese-American physicist, proved parity conservation does not hold in weak subatomic interactions. Wu left China to study physics at the University of California at Berkeley. After a proposal suggesting parity, the symmetry of physical phenomena, is not conserved for weak nuclear interactions, Wu tested the hypothesis by observing beta particles given off by Cobalt-60 and viewed a preferred direction of emission proving the proposal correct. Later she became a professor at Columbia University until her retirement in 1981.

All these women achieved great feats which completely changed the field in which they worked. Then why when these accomplishments are spoken of, their names aren’t the first to come up? 

With just a quick online search you would find:

Anthony Hewish and Sir Martin Ryle received a Nobel Prize for physics in 1974 for their discovery of pulsars.

Cheng Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee won a Nobel Prize for physics in 1957 for showing parity was no longer applicable when certain particles decay.

Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their determination of the structure of DNA. 

But to find the role of these women you may need to dig a little deeper. 

Multiple scientists received credit with each of these Nobel Prizes, but the women with such integral roles receive nothing. While others played a role in the development of these ideas, the physical proof provided by these scientists proved necessary for the verification of others theories which would be meaningless otherwise. These women made theories a reality, but their reality is receiving no credit for their field-changing accomplishments. Why are some left discarded, with no thought of, while others are celebrated and honored?

While others received Nobel Prizes for their accomplishments, the women with just as large a role received nothing, left to be forgotten by history.

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