Articles by Leila McNeill

L to R: Zelia Nutall, Mary Mahoney and Bertha Parker

Women Who Shaped History

Looking Beyond the Female Firsts of Science History

Two authors ask readers to change their understanding of what science is and who gets to participate

Janaki Ammal was a pioneering botanist who helped  identify and conserve the biodiversity of India.

Women Who Shaped History

The Pioneering Female Botanist Who Sweetened a Nation and Saved a Valley

One of India’s finest plant scientists, Janaki Ammal spurred her country to protect its rich tropical diversity

Sarah Stewart circa 1950.

Women Who Shaped History

The Woman Who Revealed the Missing Link Between Viruses and Cancer

Today, vaccinating against cervical cancer is routine. But before Sarah Stewart, scientists dismissed the idea of a cancer-preventing vaccine as ludicrous

Margaret Dayhoff was a pioneer of using computers to tackle some of the biggest scientific questions of the day.

How Margaret Dayhoff Brought Modern Computing to Biology

The pioneer of bioinformatics modeled Earth’s primordial atmosphere with Carl Sagan and made a vast protein database still used today

Alice Lee, one of the first women to attend London University, challenged the predominant notion that men's brains were larger and therefore intellectually superior.

The Statistician Who Debunked Sexist Myths About Skull Size and Intelligence

Though she laid bare the false claim of women's intellectual inferiority, Alice Lee failed to apply the same logic to race

In the late 19th century, Ellen Swallow Richards worked to equip women with the tools of chemistry.

Women Who Shaped History

The First Female Student at MIT Started an All-Women Chemistry Lab and Fought for Food Safety

Ellen Swallow Richards applied chemistry to the home to advocate for consumer safety and women's education

Zelia Nuttall, who began an academic career in archaeology after she divorced her archaeologist husband in 1888, is best known for her work on ancient Mexican manuscripts.

Women Who Shaped History

The Archaeologist Who Helped Mexico Find Glory in Its Indigenous Past

Disrupting a stereotype of Mesoamerican savagery, Zelia Nuttall brought the ingenuity of Aztec civilization to the fore

The Woman Who Made a Device to Help Disabled Veterans Feed Themselves—and Gave It Away for Free

World War II nurse Bessie Blount went on to become an inventor and forensic handwriting expert

Using an artist's tools and the skills of a scientist, Tangerini makes “art in the service of science.”

The Botanical Artist Who Translates Plant Science Into Beautiful Art

The Smithsonian’s first and only botanical illustrator brings her subjects to life in all their scientific glory

No photos of Cole survive. Shown here is an anatomy lecture taught by pioneering female physician Elizabeth Blackwell at the Woman's Medical College of New York Infirmary, which she founded. Cole was the resident physician at the infirmary and later a sanitary visitor at Blackwell's Tenement House Service. Blackwell described Cole as “an intelligent young coloured physician [who] carried on this work with tact and care.”

Race in America

The Woman Who Challenged the Idea that Black Communities Were Destined for Disease

A physician and activist, Rebecca J. Cole became a leading voice in medical social services

Marvin, a trailblazer in more ways than one, surveys the Antarctic terrain on her meteorite-hunting expedition of 1978-79.

Women Who Shaped History

The Rockstar Geologist Who Mapped the Minerals of the Cosmos

A professor told Ursula Marvin she should learn to cook. Instead she chased down meteorites in Antarctica

For all their flaws, lab mice have become an invaluable research model for genetics, medicine, neuroscience and more. But few people know the story of the first standardized lab mice.

Women Who Shaped History

The History of Breeding Mice for Science Begins With a Woman in a Barn

Far more than a mouse fancier, Abbie Lathrop helped establish the standard mouse model and pioneered research into cancer inheritance

An endocast revealing the brain of an Iguanodon, an herbivorous dinosaur of the early Cretaceous period. This was the first fossilized dinosaur brain found by modern scientists, announced in 2016.

Women Who Shaped History

The Woman Who Shaped the Study of Fossil Brains

By drawing out hidden connections, Tilly Edinger joined the fields of geology and neurology

Baber gathering fossils at Mazon Creek, Illinois, 1895, during the first field class at the University of Chicago to which women were admitted.

Women Who Shaped History

The Woman Who Transformed How We Teach Geography

By blending education and activism, Zonia Baber made geography a means of uniting—not conquering—the globe

Kono Yasui at Tokyo University.

Women Who Shaped History

How a Pioneering Botanist Broke Down Japan’s Gender Barriers

Kono Yasui was the first Japanese woman to publish in an academic journal, forging a new path for women in her country

In July 1955, black children wait to register for school in Lawrence County, Arkansas, as schools desegregate in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education.

How a Psychologist’s Work on Race Identity Helped Overturn School Segregation in 1950s America

Mamie Phipps Clark came up with the oft-cited "doll test" and provided expert testimony in Brown v. Board of Education

Anandibai Joshee (left), Kei Okami and Tabat M. Islambooly, students from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania.

Women Who Shaped History

This 19th Century "Lady Doctor" Helped Usher Indian Women Into Medicine

Ananabai Joshee dedicated her career to treating women and helped blaze a path for international doctors training in the U.S.

Anna Morandi Manzolini (1714-1774), Italian anatomist and sculptor, from a drawing by Cesare Bettini.

The Lady Anatomist Who Brought Dead Bodies to Light

Anna Morandi was the brains and the skilled hand of an unusual husband-wife partnership

Frances Oldham Kelsey, a pharmacologist with the Food & Drug Administration, helped prevent a generation of children born with congenital deformities in the United States.

Women Who Shaped History

The Woman Who Stood Between America and a Generation of 'Thalidomide Babies'

How the United States escaped a national tragedy in the 1960s

Naomi Weisstein was a feminist activist, a neuropsychologist and, for a brief time, a rock 'n roll musician.

This Feminist Psychologist-Turned-Rock-Star Led a Full Life of Resistance

Naomi Weisstein fought against the idea of women as objects in both the fields of psychology and rock 'n roll