You can access the articles by clicking on the photos. Further biographies follow in no particular order.
If we look at the prizes and awards in chemistry, we almost only come across well-known men. Is chemistry a male domain? Certainly not today! But as of 2020, the Nobel Prizes awarded went to 782 men, 56 women (6.7%) and 28 organizations (excluding the Nobel Prize in Economics; source ). In chemistry, we count (as of 2020) seven female Nobel Prize winners (3.8%) out of a total of 185 winners - at least five of them in the last twelve years ( source ):
Caroline Bertozzi (2022)
Emmanuelle Charpentier (2020)
Jennifer Doudna (2020)
Frances H Arnold (2018)
Ada Yonath (2010)
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1964)
Irene Joliot-Curie (1935)
Marie Curie (1911)
Then there is Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard – a biologist and biochemist – who in 1995 was the only German natural scientist to be awarded the Nobel Prize in the category of physiology/ medicine .
We are currently experiencing that more and more women are gaining international recognition for their scientific achievements. But it will be a while before prices are named after them, since this usually only happens after their death.
Last year 2020, the GDCh awarded the Hildegard Hamm Brücher Award for equal opportunities in chemistry, which was named after a woman for the first time - a clear commitment to more equal opportunities in chemistry.
Even if, in hindsight, chemistry was dominated by men, there have always been women who weren't intimidated by it. With a thirst for knowledge, tenacity and a dash of civil courage, they made their way in science, business, public service and politics. Despite some hostility, they even gained recognition from the men they worked with, including Nobel Prize winners. One has to consider that at the beginning of the 20th century it was not yet socially common for women to do their Abitur, study and then also practice their profession. Unfortunately, their achievements were not taken into account in honors, such as the awarding of prizes or as namesakes.
So that these first women in chemistry are not forgotten, Prof. Dr. Eberhard Ehlers and Prof. Dr. Heribert Offermanns took the initiative to honor her posthumously and to show her exciting and diverse career paths in short portraits.
As early as 2003, the GDCh working group Group for Equal Opportunities in Chemistry (AKCC), headed by its chairperson Dr. Marion Hertel published a brochure for women chemists – there were and there are seven portraits and two interviews. But there are many more pioneers who should be remembered.
The GDCh will now present these approximately 30 portraits of the first female chemists (born up to 1939) online on its websites over the course of 2021. Announcements in various channels will reach a broad readership and keep the topic alive throughout the year. Be impressed and inspired by the power and enthusiasm of early women chemists for their profession. The GDCh thanks the two authors and Prof. Dr. Barbara Albert, TU Darmstadt, for her conceptual advice.
We hope you enjoy reading and discussing
dr Hildegard Nimmesgern
Chairwoman of the GDCh Commission for Equal Opportunities
dr Karin J Schmitz
Head of GDCh public relations
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last modified: 05.12.2022 13:59 H from Translator