Pop Art Posters Celebrate Pioneering Women Scientists: Download Free Posters of Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace & More

We all know the name Marie Curie—or at least I hope we do. But for far too many peo­ple, that’s where their knowl­edge of women in sci­ence ends. Which means that thou­sands of young boys and girls who read about Isaac New­ton and Louis Pas­teur nev­er also learn the sto­ry of Car­o­line Her­schel (1750–1848), the first woman to dis­cov­er a comet, pub­lish with the Roy­al Soci­ety, and receive a salary for sci­en­tif­ic work—as the assis­tant to the king’s astronomer, her broth­er, in 19th cen­tu­ry Eng­land. Her­schel dis­cov­ered and cat­a­logued new neb­u­lae and star clus­ters; received a gold medal from the Roy­al Astro­nom­i­cal Soci­ety; and she and her broth­er William “increased the num­ber of known star clus­ters,” writes the Smith­son­ian, “from 100 to 2,500.” And yet, she remains almost total­ly obscure.

Open a math or physics text­book and you may not come across the name Emmy Noe­ther (1882–1935), either, despite the fact that she “proved two the­o­rems,” the San Diego Super­com­put­er Cen­ter (SDSC) notes, “that were basic for both gen­er­al rel­a­tiv­i­ty and ele­men­tary par­ti­cle physics. One is still known as ‘Noether’s The­o­rem.’”

Noe­ther fought hard for recog­ni­tion in life. She received her Ph.D. in math­e­mat­ics from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Göt­tin­gen in 1907, and she even­tu­al­ly sur­passed her sci­en­tist father and broth­ers. But at first, she could only secure work at the Math­e­mat­i­cal Insti­tute of Erlan­gen in a posi­tion with­out title or pay. And despite her bril­liance, she was only allowed to teach at Göt­tin­gen Uni­ver­si­ty as the assis­tant to David Hilbert, also with­out a salary.

Noe­ther suf­fered dis­crim­i­na­tion in Ger­many “owing not only to prej­u­dices against women, but also because she was a Jew, a Social Demo­c­rat, and a paci­fist.” Oth­er promi­nent women in sci­en­tif­ic his­to­ry have encoun­tered sim­i­lar­ly inter­sect­ing forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion, and con­tin­ue to do so. Much has changed since the times of Her­schel and of Noe­ther, but “there is much work to be done,” writes Eamon O’Flynn of the Perime­ter Insti­tute for The­o­ret­i­cal Physics. “Part of mak­ing pos­i­tive change includes cel­e­brat­ing the con­tri­bu­tions women have made to sci­ence, espe­cial­ly those women over­looked in their time.” For this rea­son, the Perime­ter Insti­tute has cre­at­ed a poster series, called “Forces of Nature,” for “class­rooms, dorm rooms, liv­ing rooms, offices, and physics depart­ments.”

The posters fea­ture Curie, Noe­ther, com­put­ing pio­neer Ada Lovelace, stel­lar astronomer Annie Jump Can­non, and “first lady of physics” Chien-Shi­ung Wu. Should you want one or all of these as high-res­o­lu­tion images print­able up to 24”x36”, vis­it the Perime­ter Institute’s site and fol­low the links to fill out a short form. Whether you’re a par­ent, teacher, or mentor—these strik­ing pop art posters seem like an excel­lent way to get a con­ver­sa­tion about women in sci­ence start­ed. Fol­low up with the Smithsonian’s “Ten His­toric Female Sci­en­tists You Should Know,” SDSC’s Women in Sci­ence project, Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Sci­ence: 50 Fear­less Pio­neers Who Changed the World, and—for a con­tem­po­rary view of women work­ing in every pos­si­ble STEM field—the Asso­ci­a­tion for Women in Sci­ence.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Marie Curie Attend­ed a Secret, Under­ground “Fly­ing Uni­ver­si­ty” When Women Were Banned from Pol­ish Uni­ver­si­ties

How Ada Lovelace, Daugh­ter of Lord Byron, Wrote the First Com­put­er Pro­gram in 1842–a Cen­tu­ry Before the First Com­put­er

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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