On Women’s Day 2021, meet these 10 amazing women who changed our understanding of the cosmos: 1. Marie Curie: Rejected by Universities because she was a woman, Curie became the first woman Nobel Laureate. She pioneered the work on radioactivity and discovered two new elements: Radium and Polonium. Curie also became the first person to win two Nobel Prizes (for Physics and Chemistry). 2. Annie Jump Cannon Cannon was a deaf astronomer who found a way to classify trillions of stars in the universe. Her classification scheme was so brilliant that astronomers still use it in their research. By her career’s end, Cannon could classify 3 stars within a minute by looking at their spectra. 3. Lise Meitner Meitner gave the first-ever theoretical explanation of the nuclear fission process. Known as the ‘Physicist who never lost her humanity, she opposed the idea of the atomic bomb. When the Nobel Prize was awarded for nuclear fission, her contributions were overlooked. 4. Cecilia Payne Cecilia Payne wrote one of the most brilliant Ph.D. theses in astronomy. In her thesis, she proposed that stars are primarily composed of hydrogen and helium. Her work paved the way for scientists to study the life and evolution of stars. 5. Chien Wu Also known as the First Lady of Physics, Chien Wu was an incredible experimentalist. There was a saying among physicists that if an experiment is done by Wu, it must be correct. Chien Wu developed an experiment to show that parity is violated in weak decay. However, despite her contributions, she was not awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Physics. 6. Emmy Noether Emmy Noether was a German mathematician who had a profound influence on physics. She developed a theorem that was later used in particle physics and field theories. 7. Maria Mayer Maria Mayer was a nuclear physicist who developed a new model of the atomic nucleus. She became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for her work in nuclear physics. 8. Jocelyn Burnell When Burnell was a post-graduate student, she made one of the most remarkable discoveries in astronomy: radio pulsars, which are rapidly rotating neutron stars/white dwarfs. 9. Hedy Lamarr Hedy was a Hollywood actress and a self-taught inventor who helped invent WiFi. During World War II, she worked on a frequency-hopping signal for radio-controlled torpedoes. Similar techniques are used by engineers in Bluetooth technology and WiFi. 10. Vera Rubin During the ’60s and ’70s, Rubin discovered something strange in certain galaxies. The stars in the outer region were moving as fast as the ones in the middle. This observation did not fit with Newton’s gravitational theory. It was evidence of dark matter. Being a woman, Rubin struggled to establish herself in the scientific community. Rubin also was a mother to four children–proving that she could be both a scientist and mom.
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