The graph below shows just how far women have come. But’s it’s taken way too long. There is a cool new National Geographic program called “One Strange Rock” that interviews astronauts and scientists and which features many women who tell their tales of what got them into the space program.
Because of that one momentous day when Neil Armstrong took that first step on the moon, little boys and girls everywhere dreamed of one day going into space. This opened the doors. Little did those same kids know who it was behind the successful launches into outer space. But, they followed their dreams and became the legacy of the pioneers before them with guts and determination. Of course, this is just one of the many fields that women have broken the glass ceiling, the NASA space program. We see it in medicine and law and currently, a huge influx of women in politics.
The Nobel Prize and Prize in Economic Sciences have been awarded to women 49 times between 1901 and 2017. Only one woman, Marie Curie, has been honored twice, with the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This means that 48 women in total have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2017.
Here lies a disparity which is being righted. In all corners of the globe and from every culture, women are surfacing to the top of their fields and are being recognized. The graph here clearly shows how much it is changing since 2001.
One woman, not on the list, but could be, is Katsuko Saruhashi, a Japanese scientist who did pioneering work in her field – and then inspired many more like herself to do the same. She is an environmental hero of mine. Take time to read more about her below. Today, more than ever, her legacy is needed. I hope you, too, are inspired and find a way to honor our legacy on Earth Day April 22.
There are many others who also should be on this list, who have, in their own ways, changed the world. Katsuko Saruhashi, an environmental hero. She was given honors and in turn paid them forward.
Google is honouring Katsuko Saruhashi, a Japanese scientist who did pioneering work in her field – and then inspired many more like herself to do the same.
Saruhashi’s list of achievements is vast and wide. Chief among them is work she did to test how nuclear fallout was moving in the seas, and use it to show that tests of nuclear explosions in the ocean should be limited.
But Saruhashi’s achievements weren’t only scientific, and the list of work that others went on to do as a result of her inspiration is even longer. She also worked incredibly hard to ensure that other women got a chance to make the breakthroughs she did, explaining that it was her mission to make the field she worked in more equal.
“There are many women who have the ability to become great scientists,” she said. “I would like to see the day when women can contribute to science & technology on an equal footing with men.”
Her work in that area has been recognized with, among many others things, a prize named in her honor. When she retired in 1980, her colleagues gave her five million yen – and she used that money to establish the Association for the Bright Future of Women Scientists, which has rewarded Japanese women scientists working in the natural scientists with a prize every year since.
Google recognized all of those achievements in its Doodle, which was displayed across the world. “Today on her 98th birthday, we pay tribute to Dr. Katsuko Saruhashi for her incredible contributions to science, and for inspiring young scientists everywhere to succeed,” it wrote on its page.
Before she did the work she would go on to be remembered for, Saruhashi was already breaking through barriers. She was the first woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Tokyo in 1957, for instance, and she would continue such achievements by becoming the first woman to win a prestigious geochemistry award.
But the work that would define her scientific life was begun after the US started testing nuclear weapons at Bikini Atoll. In response to that, the Japanese government wanted to know whether exploding the warheads was affecting the water in the ocean and in rainfall, and commissioned the Geochemical Laboratory, where she worked, to analyze that.
She made use of the understanding of accurately measuring water but turned it to explore the way nuclear fallout spread through the water. She found that the pollution was taking a long time to make its way through the ocean – but that eventually it would spread out and mix with the water, moving across the world.
It was those findings and others like it that helped contribute towards stopping the test of nuclear warheads in the ocean. And it was some of the first work that explored the way that nuclear fallout spreads over the world – a field that would go on to become terrifyingly relevant in accidents like those at Chernobyl or Fukushima.
Saruhashi would go on to explore the other dangers posed by rain and water, including work on acid rain.