How these women changed science forever

This video honours the great women of science who have changed the world forever! How many of these famous female scientists do you know about?

Do the preparation task first. Then watch the video and do the exercises. You can also read the transcript.



Hey there. Welcome to Life Noggin.

When people talk about women in science, their first thought is almost always of Marie Curie – the first female scientist to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics, and the first scientist to ever receive two Nobel Prizes. She won these thanks to her groundbreaking work studying radiation and discovering two new elements – polonium and radium. And while it's important to know about her contributions to science, many people's knowledge of women in STEM ends there. So today I'm going to help fix that.

Let's start off with another scientist who worked with radioactive elements – Lisa Meitner. Along with physicist Otto Hahn, she discovered a new element called protactinium. But more importantly, she also noticed a strange result when uranium atoms were bombarded with neutrons. See, whenever this happened, the neutron did not stick to the uranium atom. Rather, it caused the atom to split, forming lighter elements in the process and also releasing a tremendous amount of energy. Meitner called this 'nuclear fission', which led to the creation of the atomic bomb. In fact, after her discoveries were published, Albert Einstein wrote a warning letter to US President Franklin D Roosevelt, which resulted in the creation of the Manhattan Project.

If you watched our video on why humans reproduce sexually, you'll know that genes have the ability to move within and between chromosomes. By studying the changes of pigmentation of corn kernels over many generations, Barbara McClintock discovered that genetic information is not stationary. However, at the time, this went against everything that was known about genetics. In fact, it took over 30 years for her work to be seriously considered – eventually resulting in her winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

On a related subject, let's talk about DNA. You probably learned in school that its double-helix structure was discovered by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick, but this is only partially true. See, the real discovery was made by Rosalind Franklin in the 1950s. Her X-ray diffraction photographs of DNA were unknowingly shown to Watson and Crick by her colleague Maurice Wilkins. And after seeing the photo, the two scientists almost immediately published a paper in Nature, explaining their findings. Unfortunately, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Watson, Crick and Wilkins after Franklin's death, but it's unsure if she would have even been included if she had still been alive. But regardless, it's clear that we should know her name just as well as we know Watson and Crick.

And lastly, let's talk about Jane Goodall. She is a primatologist and best known for her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania. During her time with them, she discovered that chimpanzees were able to make and use tools, which, at the time, only humans were thought to do. This was a huge breakthrough, and she also discovered that chimpanzees ate meat, throw stones as weapons, embrace one another for comfort and formed familial bonds. In fact, the chimps even had a war! After years of research, she speaks out for these animals that cannot speak for themselves. And on top of all of this, she is an advocate for conservation and founded the Jane Goodall Institute, a global non-profit organisation.

So, clearly there are some incredible scientists that you should have learned about in school. But obviously there are tonnes more, so let me know who you want to learn about next time.

© Life Noggin


Worksheet61.36 KB
Average: 3.9 (17 votes)

Submitted by Coco Banana of… on Tue, 02/04/2024 - 11:50


I think it's really cool that we remember these women even now. But what impressed me the most is Rosalind Franklin's story. She get zero recognition during her lifetime. But why people don't talk about it now? Even now, when people know that she did most of the research, her name is hardly ever found in textbooks. I know that she can't win the Nobel prize because she's dead. But why don't talk about her the same way we talk about James Watson and Francis Crick? I think that now we have to give her the recognition she deserves.  

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Submitted by flowodo on Tue, 02/04/2024 - 11:46


What surprised me most in the test was the story about Marie Curie, I never knew that such a great one existed, she was a resourceful woman, greetings to everyone from the Ukrainian People's Academy (NUA)

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Submitted by DavidZhuk185 on Tue, 02/04/2024 - 11:37


I was shocked that Jane Goodall was speaking with monkeys. And before this test I didn't know anything about Lisa Meitner and her connection with Manhattan project, that amazed me very much.

Submitted by tuturu 903 on Wed, 20/03/2024 - 11:46


I think that all scientist in this video is very important, but most of all I has interested in Rosalind Franklin, as I didn't know anything about her discovery. I really believed that DNA was first discovered by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick. It is interesting. 

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Submitted by stefherz on Wed, 14/02/2024 - 10:57


I think it is equally important to know about all of them, but I was especially shocked that Rosalind Franklin got zero recognition during her lifetime and even after her death it seemed to have been taken a while for her to be recognised as the true discoverer of the double-helix structure. Due to the tremendous injustice she suffered I reckon that remebering her contribution to science is essential.

Submitted by rdem on Mon, 20/02/2023 - 16:42


Hedy Lamar, in alphabetical order, actress and 'inventress':

Submitted by VIVIANB_D on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 05:50

I reckon that all the scientists are really important, because their finding are essential for future experiments and the thinks that we have today, In the other hand, when Lisa Meitner discovered protactinium I think in the result "Manhattan Project" and I remember the best comic Watchmen. I did connection with these two names and I think that she have to be part of these piece of art.

Submitted by Wafaa Ibrahim on Wed, 29/04/2020 - 13:54

I hope I can see a video for dr.berg

Submitted by nikoslado on Sun, 10/11/2019 - 20:16

.... unless we have to imply things, by knowing in detail, when and where the particular scientists Meitner and Hann acted [i.e. in Nazi Germany], while Einstein was an anti-Nazi and had already escaped to the US, worried about this discovery and informed the Americans of the danger of exploiting it by the Nazis.That is correct but a long far away from this specific text we rely on to answer the questions we are asked... Thankful in advance, nikoslado.

Submitted by nikoslado on Sun, 10/11/2019 - 19:15

Dear Team, about Task 2, 2nd sentence,[''Some people were worried about Lisa Meitner's findings''], there is nothing referred about ''people worries'' in the text, or I couldn't find anything related to this.So, I chose ''false'', but it considered as a wrong answer. What do you think?