Pioneering Women of Science
Microbial Insights is proud to be a woman-owned small business. We would not be where we are today without some amazing women and men who made significant scientific contributions. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight some of these inspiring women and their pioneering work.
Rosalind Franklin, Chemist and X-Ray Crystallographer
We often take for granted knowledge of the unique molecular structure that comprises a DNA molecule. In the 1950s, that simply wasn’t the case. James Watson and Francis Crick were doing groundbreaking work to understand the chemical structure and makeup of DNA. However, Rosalind Franklin’s trailblazing research led to the discovery. She applied X-ray diffraction methods to understand the density and helical conformation of the molecule. The work she produced showed clearer X-ray patterns and led to the publication of the double-helix polymer by Watson and Crick in 1953. She also collaborated on interesting research showing that RNA in the tobacco mosaic virus was embedded in its protein rather than in its central cavity and helped elucidate that RNA was a single-strand helix rather than double-stranded like DNA. Without her devotion to science and cutting-edge DNA research, Microbial Insights would not be doing the groundbreaking work we are today.
Dorothy Hodgkin, Biochemist and X-Ray Crystallographer
In 1964, Dorothy Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry. Dorothy was nominated 8 times for physics and 24 times for chemistry over a 14-year period before she finally received the chemistry prize. She is known as one of the founders of protein crystallography and made numerous discoveries utilizing her expertise with this technique including understanding the structure of penicillin, insulin, and vitamin B12. Understanding the structure of vitamin B12 led to better treatment of anemia and, according to Sir Lawrence Bragg, was for medicine the equivalent to “breaking the sound barrier.” Her passion, methodical thinking, capacity for learning, and sheer stamina to work through to completion makes her a trailblazer and role model.
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Astronomer and Astrophysicist
Cecilia was a dreamer with a vivid imagination. Her persistence and relentless curiosity led to a series of firsts. She was the first woman to receive a PhD from Radcliffe College, first woman to be a professor at Harvard, and the first person to discover the composition of stars. By looking through a jeweler’s loupe, she discovered what stars are made of, something that astronomers had been trying to do for hundreds of years. She was able to determine that hydrogen was more prevalent in the universe than ever believed—a fundamental discovery for future work in astronomy.