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Women in Science

The Science History Institute is proud to celebrate the many contributions of women in science all year long, but especially during Women’s History Month, which is held each March to commemorate and reflect on the often-overlooked impact women have had on American history.

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Michael Somogyi and Unidentified Women in Laboratory

Dr. Michael Somogyi (back row, center) and Dr. Irene E. Karl (back row, right) are pictured with four unidentified female colleagues at the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, circa 1942–1943.

Science History Institute

Through our collections, programs and events, historical biographiesDistillations content, and other initiatives, we will continue to share the stories of women in science.

Sadly but perhaps not surprisingly, some of these stories include female scientists whose work has been obscured or even forgotten. A good example is the photo at right from our digital collections. Until May 2020 only Dr. Michael Somogyi (1883–1971) was identified by name; the five women he’s pictured with were labeled simply as “female laboratory assistants.” But thanks to a social media crowdsourcing campaign launched during last year’s Women’s History Month, one of the unknown women has since been identified as Irene Karl (1915–2006), a renowned biochemist who was a pioneer in metabolic disorders.
 

Collections Highlights

Check out more women in science-related items from our digital collections, including images of female scientists, lab technicians, and other scientific workers, as well as an array of materials related to women’s health. And some really cool stamps.

 

 
Receiving Room at Dearborn Laboratory Facility

Photograph of employee Genevieve Work in the receiving room at the Dearborn Chemical Company's 35th Street Laboratory facility and manufacturing plant in Chicago, circa 1924.

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Reactor Flask in Use at Hercules Brunswick Plant

Research assistant Evelyn Kieffer using a reactor flask to analyze an unidentified substance in a laboratory at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Brunswick, Georgia, circa 1960.

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Professor Dorothy Hodgkin

Never-finished portrait of Nobel laureate Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994) by English artist Graham Sutherland. India ink, paper, pencil, watercolor, 1978.

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Dr. Bettye Washington Greene

Photograph of Dr. Bettye Washington Greene (1935-1995), believed to be the first African American female chemist employed to work in a professional position at the Dow Chemical Company.

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Gold-Plated Stem Pessary (Intrauterine Device)

A type of early intrauterine device (IUD) also known as a cervicouterine device or pessary, 1920.

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Postage Stamp Honoring Dr. Virginia Apgar

United States postage stamp honoring Dr. Virginia Apgar (1909-1974), inventor of the Apgar Score used to quickly assess the health of a newborn child, 1995.

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Wilson College Chemistry Club

Group photograph depicting members of the chemistry club at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, circa 1937.

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Two Women Using a Model F Coulter Counter

Photograph of two women using the Coulter Counter, which quantifies and sizes particles suspended in a fluid, like blood cells, bacteria, and a wide variety of other substances, 1960s.

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Woman in Laboratory at Hercules Hopewell Plant

Unidentified female employee using a pipette to transfer a solution into a laboratory apparatus at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Hopewell, Virginia, 1940s.

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Nitrometer Used in the Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory

Mrs. M.K. Murray demonstrating the use of a nitrometer, an apparatus used to determine the amount of nitrogen or nitrogen compounds in a substance or mixture, 1926.

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Cuban Postage Stamp Commemorating Pierre and Marie Curie's Discovery of Radium

This 1938 stamp was printed by the Republic of Cuba and depicts Pierre and Marie Curie.

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Receiving Room at Dearborn Laboratory Facility


Photograph of employee Genevieve Work in the receiving room at the Dearborn Chemical Company's 35th Street Laboratory facility and manufacturing plant in Chicago, circa 1924.

📷 Science History Institute

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Women in Science Bios