2013 Archives

6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism

Despite enormous progress in recent decades, women still have to deal with biases against them in the sciences.

Excerpt

The following ran on the May 19, 2013, edition of National Geographic Daily News blog. Sociologist Anne Lincoln provided expertise for this story.

May 20, 2013

By Jane J. Lee

In April, National Geographic News published a story about the letter in which scientist Francis Crick described DNA to his 12-year-old son. In 1962, Crick was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, along with fellow scientists James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.

Several people posted comments about our story that noted one name was missing from the Nobel roster: Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist who also studied DNA. Her data were critical to Crick and Watson's work. But it turns out that Franklin would not have been eligible for the prize—she had passed away four years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the prize, and the Nobel is never awarded posthumously.

But even if she had been alive, she may still have been overlooked. Like many women scientists, Franklin was robbed of recognition throughout her career (See her section below for details.)

She was not the first woman to have endured indignities in the male-dominated world of science, but Franklin's case is especially egregious, said Ruth Lewin Sime, a retired chemistry professor at Sacramento City College who has written on women in science.

Over the centuries, female researchers have had to work as "volunteer" faculty members, seen credit for significant discoveries they've made assigned to male colleagues, and been written out of textbooks.

They typically had paltry resources and fought uphill battles to achieve what they did, only "to have the credit attributed to their husbands or male colleagues," said Anne Lincoln, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, who studies biases against women in the sciences....