Monday, January 31, 2011

Women scientists who made a difference

Susan Wells, a guest poster on Steve Spangler's website (who is known as the teacher's teacher), has released a list of  Women Scientists Who Made a Difference. The expected suspects are present: Dian Fossey, Rosalind Franklin, etc. And Barbara McClintock: if you know anyone in the maize community, or genetics in general, you know the reverence with which people consider her work and her contributions.

At the end of the post she asks Who has she missed? Who are *your* favorite women scientists?

I have one to add -- Lucy Braun, a pioneering plant ecologist*. Emma Lucy Braun (1889-1971) was born and raised in Cincinnati, along with her sister Annette, by parents that taught in the Cincinnati public schools--her father a principal and her mother a teacher. She obtained a Masters of Geology (1912) and a PhD in Botany (1914) at the University of Cincinnati, and taught botany and later plant ecology at the University throughout her research and teaching career. She won many notable awards for her botanizing; she was the first woman to be the president of ESA, or the Ecological Society of America, and the second woman to obtain a PhD from the University of Cincinnati -- the first was her sister who obtained her degree in entomology. 

Lucy Braun is regarded for, among many other works, her contributions to the  glacial and post-glacial plant migration literature and the work that led to her book Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America (1950). I have also read somewhere, although I cannot recall the reference, that she was the first to find invasive Japanese honeysuckle in Ohio, which is one of the worst invasive plants in the area. She was also a great proponent of plant conservation and the preservation of natural areas. Although she spent her entire teaching career at the University of Cincinnati (she retired early from the University to focus solely on her research), we don't currently have a display in the Biological Sciences department on her work and contributions (although I have been told there is one at the Natural History Museum). I and other faculty in the department have discussed putting something together--perhaps now is the time!

*Information from Women in the Biological Sciences: A Bibliographic Sourcebook. Eds L. Grinstein, C. Biermann, & R. Rose. 1997. Greenwood Press.

Addendum: Women in Science - where are we now? was just posted on the Of Schemes and Memes blog by the Nature Network Team.

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