Female contributions to science and the arts have not been recognised historically
Look at this vocabulary before you listen to and read the article:
groundbreaking: pioneering, innovative
shameful: disgraceful, scandalous
deduce: to reach a conclusion by reason
decipher: to determine the meaning of something e.g. a code
Over the centuries, female researchers have had to work as “volunteer” faculty members, seen credit for significant discoveries they’ve made assigned to male colleagues, and been written out of textbooks. They fought uphill battles to achieve what they did, only to have the credit attributed to their husbands or male colleagues.
Here are two female researchers who did groundbreaking work—and whose names are likely unfamiliar for one reason: because they are women.
* * Jocelyn Bell Burnell * *
Born in Northern Ireland in 1943, Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars in 1967 while still a graduate student in radio astronomy at Cambridge University.
Bell Burnell discovered the recurring signals given off by their rotation while analysing data printed out on three miles of paper from a radio telescope she helped assemble.
The finding resulted in a Nobel Prize, but the1974 award in physics went to Anthony Hewish—Bell Burnell’s supervisor—and Martin Ryle, also a radio astronomer at Cambridge University.
“She deserved credit for the discovery of lambda phage, her work on the F fertility factor, and, especially, replica plating,” wrote Stanley Falkow, a retired microbiologist at Stanford University, “But she didn’t receive it.”
* * Rosalind Franklin * *
Born in 1920 in London, Rosalind Franklin used x-rays to take a picture of DNA that would change biology. Hers is perhaps one of the most well-known—and shameful—instances of a researcher being robbed of credit. She was a research associate in John Randall’s laboratory at King’s College in London and soon encountered Maurice Wilkins, who was leading his own research group studying the structure of DNA.
Franklin and Wilkins worked on separate DNA projects, but by some accounts, Wilkins mistook Franklin’s role in Randall’s lab as that of an assistant rather than head of her own project.
Meanwhile, James Watson and Francis Crick, both at Cambridge University, were also trying to determine the structure of DNA. They communicated with Wilkins, who at some point showed them Franklin’s image of DNA—known as Photo 51—without her knowledge. Photo 51 enabled Watson, Crick, and Wilkins to deduce the correct structure for DNA, which they published in a series of articles in the journal Nature in April 1953. Franklin also published in the same issue, providing further details on DNA’s structure.
Franklin’s image of the DNA molecule was key to deciphering its structure, but only Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work.
Something to chat about
- Why has it been difficult for women scientists to gain recognition?
- What did Jocelyn Bell Burnell discover?
- Who did mistake did Wilkins make about Franklin?
- What did Franklin contribute to the discovery of DNA?
- Why do you think women have won less Nobel prizes than men?
- What can be done to change this?
Write your ideas in an email for your ECP Coach. And why not record them and listen to yourself speak English? It’ll help you improve your intonation and pronunciation as well as help you identify your mistakes.
This story was adapted from:
The Nobel Prize has been awarded 807 times to men and 44 times to women (there have also been 23 awards to organisations).
The first woman to win a Nobel Prize was Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel. Curie is also the only woman to have won multiple Nobel Prizes; in 1911, she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (and is accordingly included twice in the total figure of 44 for female laureates). Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935, making the two the only mother-daughter pair to have won Nobel Prizes.
Fifteen women have won the Nobel Peace Prize, twelve have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, ten have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, four have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, two have won the Nobel Prize in Physics and one woman (in 2009) has won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.The most Nobel Prizes awarded to women in a single year was in 2009, when five women became laureates.
Look at the pictures and answer the questions (click on the image to download the page)
What differences would more women in positions of power at work make?
Have quotas in political parties helped achieve equality for women?
What areas of life do women still suffer discrimination?
What are your ideas to change this?
Are women discriminated against in sport?
Write your ideas in an email to your ECP coach and why not record them too? Listen to yourself to improve your intonation and pronunciation and also to identify your mistakes.
Artist ‘directs carbon atoms’ on canvas to create amazingly realistic portraits
Look at this vocabulary first and then listen to and read the article:
yet: but, however
canvas: cloth on which to paint
charcoal: carbon and ash residue
monochrome: made with one colour
freeform: with an irregular shape
to resemble: to look like
as well as: apart from
to achieve: obtain, create
labelled: given a written description
to be keen to: to want to
volatile: changing, unstable
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the images in Michael Fennell’s collection are photographs, yet not only are the realistic pieces of art in fact paintings, they are created using smoke.
These smoke paintings are produced using large canvases suspended above Fennell’s head and as he holds the candle close to the canvas, the charcoal particles in the smoke hit the surface and form marks.
His canvases feature musicians, novelists and sport stars, among others, and sell for between £3,000 and £5,000 each.
Fennell became interested in smoke around 15 years ago after seeing a monochrome image that had been created by a plume of smoke.
Having previously worked with oil, he said he was also inspired by the marks left by charcoal and ink on his studio floor.
“I saw the mark the flame had made [on the floor] and I was struck by how freeform it was. The mark almost resembled water, even though they’re very different materials. It was this unique nature that interested me.”
As well as moving the candle, Fennell said he uses different objects, such as card or his hand, to move the smoke and achieve different textures.
“Everyone who sees them always asks how they’re done, which suggests to me that the effect is unique.” explained Fennell, “When paintings are labelled with just the word ‘smoke’, it hides a lot from the process”, and he thinks this adds to the mystery.
Fennell is keen to keep a number of his processes a secret, yet said that one thing he has learnt from using smoke is that the paintings must be ‘fixed’ using aerosols.
“Smoke as a drawing medium is of course fundamentally flawed – it is tremendously volatile and a line cannot be drawn with it, but perhaps more importantly you can easily set fire to your paper and burn down your studio!”
This story was adapted from:
Can you remember?
Read the vocabulary clues and complete the crossword puzzle. All the words are from the article on page 1.
Then look at the pictures and chat about the questions
Click on the image to download the page.
Something to chat about
(read the article on page 1 and look at the pictures)
- What is art?
- Are you interested in art?
- Do you like going to art galleries?
- How do you know whether a work of art is ‘good’?
- Have you ever said: “That doesn’t look like ‘art’ to me!”?
- What is the purpose of art?
- Is it necessary to know about art history to understand art?
- Are you an artist in any way?
- Do children learn about art at school?
- How much would you pay for a piece of art?