We are all cosmic dust: iconic female scientists

I don’t think I’ve told you, but in a former life, I was a scientist.  A bachelor’s degree in Biology and four publications in hoighty toighty science journals read on my resume buried somewhere in between half-painted canvases and piles of vintage fabric.  I spent my days researching T Cell Lymphoma at UPenn/CHOP and making science jokes (see the end of this post), was accepted into a Ph.D program a few years later, and soon thereafter left it all for a whirlwind adventure.  For me, the day-to-day of a laboratory consists of just too much thinking and too little imagination.

So here I am, writing about it in between tulle skirts and fiction ideas.  But I still have a great affinity for science and a deep love of research; especially for understanding the complexities of the stars at work.

I thought I might combine a little science, a little girl power, and a little vintage lifestyle for a nuclear explosion worthy of Neils Bohr…highlighted below are my very favorite female scientists who paved the way for all us girls made of stardust and cosmic dreams.

Caroline Herschel

(1750-1848. German. Astronomer.)

Surpassed a stunted growth and doomed fate to build telescopes, discover comets, and index the Catalogue of the Stars.  Take that, typhus.

Caroline Herschel

Caroline Herschel. First woman to discover a comet. (

Ada Byron, The Countess of Lovelace

(1815-1852. British. Mathematician & Writer.)

Never met her father, famed poet Lord Byron, but went on to write an algorithm encoded for processing by a machine: also known as, the world’s very first computer.

Ada Byron Lovelace

Ada Byron, The Countess of Lovelace. Wrote an algorithm for the first computer. (

Maria Mitchell

(1818-1889. American. Astronomer.)

A Nantucket girl who calculated the time of the annular eclipse at age 12, discovered a comet that was then named after her, and became the first American woman to work professionally as an astronomer.  Go Vassar!

Maria Mitchell Astronomer

Maria Mitchell. (

Madame Marie Curie

(1867-1934. French-Polish. Chemist & Physicist)

The daughter of an atheist and a catholic, she coined the term “radioactivity,” invented the theory, and discovered Polonium (named after her birth country, Poland) and Radium.  Although terrible, I suppose it only fitting that it was her constant exposure to radiation that eventually killed her.

Marie Curie Young

Marie Curie. Discovered radioactivity. (

Barbara McClintock

(1902-1992 . American. Cytogeneticist.)

Almost kept out of Cornell by her parents, she fell head-over-heels for maize and used their DNA to discover the research-necessary lac operon and…jumping genes: the way our chromosomes recombine!  My favorite of all the ladies, since Genetics was my concentration and passion.  Plus, check out that sweet sailor girl outfit.

Barbara Mcclintock cytogeneticist

Barbara Mcclintock. Discovered jumping genes. (

Rosalind Franklin

(1920-1958. British. Biophysicist)

The real pioneer of the DNA double helix who watched Watson & Crick goof off while she invented the necessary technology: X-ray crystallography.  This little lady later landed her own research lab studying the tobacco mosaic virus until succumbing to ovarian cancer at age 38.  On her death certificate: A Research Scientist, Spinster, Daughter of Ellis Arthur Franklin, a Banker.

rosalind franklin young

Rosalind Franklin. Inventor of X-ray crystallography. (

And a current female scientist to look up to:

Carol Greider

(1961-  . American. Molecular Biologist.)

Hate the effects of aging?  She discovered telomerase, the enzyme that adds protective caps to the ends of your DNA, regulating the aging process.  Sadly, cancer can turn on telomerase in its own cells, allowing them to live forever.  Why, tiny enzyme, are you such a double-edged sword?

Carol Greider telomerase

Carol Greider. Discovered telomerase (the anti-aging enzyme). (

Thank you, iconic female scientists, for always pushing the limit of what we thought possible.

Bravo and bisous.

From the cartoon on my organic chemistry professor’s door:

One atom said to another: “Oh no! I think I lost an electron.”

The other said: “Are you positive?”



  1. mothcaterpillar says:

    ahahahaha! love the joke about an electron!
    Thanks for writing this post about women in science, it was a great idea!
    one of them ;-)

    • Hooray, I’m so glad you liked it! And from a fellow scientist/science lover :D Makes me smile wide. Haha, that joke was on my organic chemistry professor’s door all through college and I just couldn’t help but giggle every time I saw it…I even had a tshirt made from it ;p

      • mothcaterpillar says:

        ahahahahaha! it must be an awesome t-shirt! I think I may have one made for myself too ;-)

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