Appearances are often deceptive. Yet these above-mentioned adorable little girls in the picture grew up to be legends of science. They fought against oppression, survived battlefields, won Nobel prizes and completely transformed the world with their discoveries. But who are they?
Rosalind Franklin [25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958]
Rosalind produced the world famous photograph 51 that helped us understand DNA’s double helix structure onhow genetic information is passed from parents to their offspring. She was a bright girl and by aged 15 had already decided on becoming a scientist. Rosalind worked hard and earned a scholarship to Cambridge where she went on to study Chemistry and earned a PhD using X-ray diffraction to understand the molecular structure of coals. She then took a research position at Kings where she used her X-ray diffraction skills to produce detailed images of DNA. Her male peers were very cruel and hostile towards her slowing down her work and eventually pushing her out of the university. They referred to her as ‘a witch’ and insulted her for not being glamorous or wearing enough lipstick. Without her knowledge, one of her colleagues took her work and shared it with Watson and Crick. They then deduced that DNA had a double helical structure and won the Nobel Prize for this work. Rosalind also led pioneering work on the tobacco mosaic virus and the polio virus.
IrèneJoliot-Curie[12.September,1897 – 17.March,1956]
This little girl is the daughter of the legendary Marie and Pierre Curie. She grew up to co-discover artificial radioactivity with her husband Frederic and won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for this work. Irene had a wondrous early education. She attended a Parisian co-op school for the children of professors set up by her mother where she was tutored by world renowned scientists. Irene went on to University to study nursing however her education was cut short due to the outbreak of World War I. She and her mother were right at the frontline of the war, using their X-ray skills to examine soldiers on the field and in hospitals. For this work she was awarded France’s Military Medal. After the war she worked at her mother’s institute where she fell in love with a young assistant called Frederic. Together they made many amazing discoveries in the field of nuclear physics, discoveries that are fundamental to medicine, physics and chemistry helping us to cure cancer and increase our understanding of the world.
Esther Lederberg [December 18, 1922 – November 11, 2006]
Esther was born into deep poverty and was raised in the Bronx during the Great Depression. She grew up to be a world renowned microbiologist and geneticist. She made many ground breaking discoveries, notably the discovery of theLambda Phage – the first known virus to live calmly within bacteria. This discovery allows us to study the biology of all viruses as well gene regulation and genetic recombination. Esther was a little genius and managed to graduate high school by 16 and completed her undergraduate degree by aged 20. She was so poor that after paying her tuition she often didn’t have money to eat. She would take the animals used in lab dissections and eat them for her dinner. Esther also worked with her husband to develop a method for comparing mutations in bacteria, she tested the technique using her makeup powder puff. This work won her husband the Nobel Prize.
Barbara Mclintock [June 16, 1902 – September 2, 1992]
This little girl grew up to be one of the world’s most distinguished cytogeneticist, the 1983 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. When Barbara was born she was called Eleanor. Noticing her independent, tomboy personality her parents wanted to change her name to something less delicate and settled on Barbara. After finishing high school her mother urged her not to attend university. She was scared that if Barbara received a university education she would be unmarriageable. With the support of her father Barbara resisted and was able to attend Cornell. Here she developed a love for genetics. Women were not allowed to graduate with a genetics degree so her official degree title is was botany. Barbara completely revolutionized the genetics field with her research. She discovered that genetic information transposed from one chromosome to the other, this work won her a Nobel Prize for physiology. Her work has helped us to understand and cure human disease and understand how bacteria build up resistance to antibiotics.