I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Bob Doughty with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about female scientists around
the world and some of the problems they face.
have been making scientific discoveries since ancient times. More recently, women scientists have
developed drugs to treat diseases like cancer, diabetes and malaria. Women have
made important discoveries about the human body and improved their country's
effectiveness in fighting wars.
women have won the Nobel Prize in science, one of the highest honors in the
world. Some female scientists never married. Some worked with their husbands. Others raised large families. But it has been difficult for women to be
In the early eighteen hundreds in England, Mary Anning
became one of the first women recognized for her discoveries about the ancient
history of the Earth. Mary and her
father collected fossils in their village on the southern coast of Great
Britain. Fossils are plants or parts of animals that have been saved in rocks
for millions of years.
When she was only
twelve years old, Mary became the first person to find the almost complete
skeletons of several animals that no longer existed on Earth. She never became
famous for her discoveries because she often sold her fossils to get money to
support her family.
In eighteen ninety-one, a young Polish woman named
Marie Sklodowska traveled to Paris, France to study physics. She did so because
she could not get a college education in Poland. She began working in the laboratory of a man
named Pierre Curie. Marie and Pierre
Curie married and made many discoveries together. They received the Nobel Prize
in physics in nineteen-oh-three along with another scientist. Marie Curie became the first person to be
awarded a second Nobel Prize in nineteen eleven, this time in chemistry. Marie
Curie was one of the few women at the time who became famous as a scientist.
nineteen-oh-six, a little girl named Maria Goeppert was born in Germany. She
learned to love science from her father. She married an American scientist.
Joseph Mayer and Maria Goeppert moved to the United States in nineteen thirty.
Mister Mayer became a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,
But Maria Goeppert-Mayer worked without pay as a volunteer. Later she
became a professor of physics at the University of Chicago in Illinois. In
nineteen sixty-three, Maria Goeppert-Mayer won the Nobel Prize in physics along
with two other scientists.
World War Two, many American women worked in factories. Their inventions
improved fighter planes, containers for fuel and cameras. But after the war,
women were expected to stay at home and have babies while their husbands went
back to work in factories and laboratories. Women who continued to be scientists were often told it was not natural
for women to work outside the home.
today, many experts say women scientists often are not treated fairly. Women
receive fewer patents for their inventions. A patent forbids others from
copying an invention and makes the invention valuable in the world of business.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century, anything a woman invented belonged
to her husband under the law. But even in two thousand two, fewer than eleven
percent of patents were awarded to women in the United States.
National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio includes only six women on its
list of two hundred thirty-five inventors. One of them is Stephanie Kwolek. She worked for the chemical company DuPont when she invented a cloth
named Kevlar. It is five times stronger than steel. It is used to make clothing
that stops bullets fired from a gun.
is also used in space. Miz Kwolek works to improve science education for all
organizations in the United States are helping women in science. The L'Oreal company and the United Nations
agency UNESCO honor women in science around the world. Since
nineteen ninety-eight, fifty-two women scientists from twenty-six countries
have been recognized for their work.
Tebello Nyokong of Lesotho is one of this year's award winners. Her research
concerns the development of drugs to treat cancer. As a young girl, Professor Nyokong says she
went to school on some days and took care of sheep on other days. She did jobs
that were usually done by boys.
She said this had a good effect, because she
was permitted to explore as she grew older. She says the biggest problem was feeling
very alone as a woman in science. Professor Nyokong says she wants to support
young women in science so they do not have to experience this.
scientists have had to find ways to be good mothers and scientists at the same
time. Christiane Nusslein-Volhard of Germany shared the Nobel Price for physiology or medicine
in nineteen ninety-five. She directs the Max Planck Institute of Developmental
Biology in Tubingen, Germany.
Doctor Nusslein-Volhard says women in Germany
often stop working as scientists when have children. So she started an
organization that gives money to young women scientists who need help paying
for someone to care for their children and homes.
Doctor Nusslein-Volhard has said she
hopes life will become easier for women scientists in Germany while Angela
Merkel is the chancellor. The leader of Germany has a doctorate degree in
Many programs in the
United States support girls who want to become scientists. Girls Go Tech is a
Web site started by the Girl Scouts of America at girlsgotech.org. The Web site includes
ideas about jobs in science and information for parents who want to help their
daughters remain interested in science.
can listen to programs about women in science at a Web site called Women in
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ON THE AIR! It is at womeninscience.org. You can hear more than fifty women who work in
many different jobs connected to science. For example, Donna Lee Shirley led the team that built the vehicle to explore
the planet Mars. Jeanette Berringer is a
zookeeper in Rhode Island. She studied in Madagascar to learn how to take care
of lemurs. Leanne Daffner uses
technology to protect famous works of art.
Shirley Ann Jackson grew up in
Washington, D.C. when black children and white children attended different
schools. She became the first African-American woman to earn a degree in
physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
year, a woman won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Françoise Barre-Sinoussi was honored with another scientist for research leading to the discovery of
H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. She works
at the Institute Pasteur in Paris, France. She supports many young scientists, including
those from poor countries. Doctor Barre-Sinoussi said recently that "there is
always hope in life because there is always hope in science."
month, Rita Levi-Montalcini became the
first Nobel Prize Laureate to reach the age of one hundred. But when she was a girl, she had to persuade
her father to let her study science. Then she had to do her research secretly
in her home because she was Jewish. Jews were not permitted to be scientists
during the nineteen thirties in Italy.
After World War Two, she worked
for many years in the United States. In nineteen eighty-six, Rita
Levi-Montalcini shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering processes
that control the growth of cells and organs.
Doctor Levi-Montalcini was a young woman, she dreamed of working in Africa with
Doctor Albert Schweitzer. She was not able to do that then, but now she says
she has returned to that dream. She and her sister started an organization that
provides money to young African women who want to study science. Some of these
science students work in Doctor Levi-Montalcini's laboratory in Italy. She says
her message to them is: "Do not fear difficult moments. The best comes from
This program was written by Karen Leggett and produced by
Dana Demange. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Faith Lapidus. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports
at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again
next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.