In honour of International Women’s Day, Perimeter would like to salute the work of the great female physicists of the past century who shaped the field of physics as we know it.
There is, of course, Marie Curie, the first person to make a systematic study of radioactivity – a word she coined – and the only person ever to receive two Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields. But there are so many more:
- Emmy Noether, the mathematical genius who uncovered the deep connections between symmetry and conservation laws
- Lise Meitner, who discovered nuclear fission
- Maria Goeppert Mayer, the nuclear physicist who developed the electron shell model of the atom, work for which she won a Nobel Prize
- Rosalind Franklin, the crystallographer who unlocked the structure of DNA
- Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars
- Marcia Neugebauer, the first to chart the solar wind
- Helen Thom Edwards, who led the effort to design and build the Tevatron, for many years the world’s highest energy particle accelerator
- Helen R. Quinn, who did groundbreaking work on the grand unified theory
- Chien-Shiung Wu, a particle physicist who was one of the first to measure parity violation
This list could go on: There are too many to name.
As we enter the 21st century, we are aware that women in physics still face many barriers. We salute the women who are working to overcome them – including those who are on our faculty, or are among Perimeter’s Distinguished Research Chairs: Dorit Aharonov, Bianca Dittrich, Renate Loll, Fotini Markopoulou, Eva Silverstein, Natalia Toro – and we commit to doing our part to break these barriers down.