The sciences are defined by those who push past the bounds of human knowledge and break down the thought barriers of their time. But by and large, it's men—mostly white ones—whose achievements are recorded in the history books. We celebrate them as geniuses who upended our understanding of the cosmos, the planet and ourselves.
Smithsonian.com is sharing the stories of women scientists who also changed the world, but were written out of history. It was a woman (atmospheric researcher Eunice Foote) who first outlined the global greenhouse effect; a woman (FDA pharmacologist Frances Oldham Kelsey) who stood between America and an epidemic of birth defects; and a woman (astronomer Maria Mitchell) who named comets and shaped the early field of astronomy.
These pioneers paved the way for future generations of women scientists and explorers. But spotlighting their stories is about more than just augmenting women’s history. It's about understanding the cultural attitudes, historical forces and social realities that made science what it is today—and what it will be tomorrow.