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W o m e n   I n   S c i e n c e

In the past and present, men have dominated in scientific research. Our society has always accepted that women pursue brief education or to be household wives. They are unwelcomed in many areas of science by their gender differences. Only a few women such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin and Lise Meitner have overcome these problems and have achieved remarkable success.

Being one of the first women scientists to bring an influence in science, Marie Curie (1867-1934) proved that women were capable of succeeding. Winner of two Nobel prizes, discovery of two new elements and research on nuclear science are some of her accomplishments.

Born in Poland, Curie was a child prodigy. As her family found it hard to earn a living and the university disallowed girls to attend, her dreams of further studies were shattered. In order to save money to study overseas, Curie worked as a governess for six years. At that time, she began reading maths and science. When she was at university, she had poor living, alone and felt depressed because her choice of career was disapproved by her family and friends. Nevertheless, her determination to study had earned her degrees in physics and maths, and topped the class.

Curie decided to do her own research on radioactivity. Later she married the physicist Pierre Curie and worked together in a small shed. With their combined efforts, they proved the existence of two new elements; Polonium and Radium. Although they did not have power to convince other scientists, they wasted four years to obtain a pure quantity of the elements. When Radium was officially announced, Curie spent her highest point of fame. Awarded Nobel prizes and recognised as a legend, everyone showed interest in her. She did not like the media and her rumours were quite distressing. However, the publicity had earned her fortune. Her involvement in the World War had established the use of radiotherapy for soldiers. Soon after, she died as a result of overexposure to radiation.

Female scientist such as Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) has made enormous contributions to new discoveries, but she had a short reputation and received no credit. She was a British Chemist whose research led to the discovery of the DNA. Although her parents wanted her to take up social work, Franklin chose to study science. She was always against homelife and being married.

After completing her doctorate, she found a job and learnt x-ray crystallography. Her independent research was able to take clear photos of a DNA structure and identify its properties, which no one had achieved. One of the problems she encountered was Maurice Wilkins, who was a coworker and did not get along with Franklin. Often, she felt isolated with the ‘no women policies’.

Her research interested others, and had influenced Wilkins to steal her work without Franklin's permission. Wilkin and his colleagues used the information to complete the study of DNA. Furthermore, they were unfairly awarded the Nobel prize. One of the scientists described Franklin as unattractive and threatening to others and turned her into a stereotype to discourage other women from entering science. Franklin was unaware of what happened and unfortunately died at a young age of 38.

Lise Meitner (1878-1968) was an Austrian Physicist who named Nuclear Fission. Graduating to research radioactivity, she worked in Berlin. Because the chemical institute was hostile to women, she was forced to set up her own lab. She realised atoms could split and releasing huge amounts of energy. Called Nuclear Fission, the new discovery was passed to America and ideas were used to create the atomic bomb. After Japan's disaster, Meitner was partly blamed for the development of the bomb and she never received a Nobel prize.

During the past two hundred years, women did not have equal opportunities. They were controlled by men rather than being supported. Most women scientist would have gone through numerous obstacles to accomplish success. Women who have dominated in science must be credited. Through the tough times they suffer and the achievements they created, it has demonstrated how women can influence science and change our society. But as time passes, the vital roles women played will be remembered and will slowly rectify...