Joceyn Bell Burnell: March 29

Joceyn Bell Burnell: March 29

Joceyn Bell Burnell discovered the first radio pulsars with her thesis supervisor Antony Hewish, for which Hewish was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. The paper announcing the discovery of pulsars had five authors. Hewish’s name was listed first, Bell’s second. Hewish was awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Martin Ryle, without the inclusion of Bell as a co-recipient. Many prominent astronomers expressed outrage at this omission. Bell Burnell later served as President of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics (UK).


Chien-Shiung Wu: March 26

Chien-Shiung Wu: March 26

Chien-Shiung Wu had expertise in the techniques of experimental physics and radioactivity. She worked on the Manhattan Project, and later performed experiments that contradicted the Law of Conservation of Parity. Her experiments confirmed the theories of Lee and Yang who were awarded a Nobel Prize for Physics. She was the first Wolf Prize winner in physics, but died in 1997 without receiving a Nobel. Many consider this one of the most notable Nobel oversights.


Maria Mitchell: March 25

Maria Mitchell: March 25

Maria Mitchell discovered a comet which became known as the “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”. She won a gold medal prize for her discovery which was presented to her by King Frederick VII of Denmark. MItchell became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848 and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1850. She became professor of astronomy at Vassar College in 1865, the first person appointed to the faculty. She was also named as Director of the Vassar College Observatory.


Sophie Germain: March 23

Sophie Germain: March 23

Sophie Germain gained her education from books in her father’s library and from correspondence with famous mathematicians such as Lagrange, Legendre, and Gauss. One of the pioneers of elasticity theory, she won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject. Her work on Fermat’s Last Theorem provided a foundation for mathematicians exploring the subject for hundreds of years after.