Science is not just a story about discoveries; it’s also a story about people. Their passions, preferences, insights and determination shape scientific progress.
Some win awards for their work — Nobels, Lasker Awards, the Breakthrough Prize. But even among the prizewinners, very few receive widespread public acclaim. Scientific celebrity is rare. More often, scientists toil away, recognized by their peers but not many others. And in too many cases, the names of those who made important contributions are dropped from the discoveries they made possible.
This collection highlights scientists who deserve to be better known — some of them went unrecognized at the time of their work, while others have been forgotten by the passage of time. There’s a focus on people who have accomplished great things despite the barriers of sexism and racism. But we’ve also included amateur and citizen scientists who have contributed new ideas and essential data, researchers who take on the seemingly thankless task of communicating science in an age of disinformation, and those who are pushing to make science more inclusive. This collection will grow with time — there are many more stories to tell.
After big contributions in accelerator physics, Sekazi Mtingwa has been focused on opening science for everyone.
A member of the Navajo Nation, she believes Indigenous geneticists have a big role to play in protecting and studying their own data.
Devoted wife of a famed Filipino writer, Emma Unson Rotor worked on the proximity fuze at a U.S. agency in the 1940s.
Knowledge of the complex dance between virus and host cell has led to the development of life-saving vaccines.
Rigby, senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, believes being part of the LGBTQ+ community has made her a better astronomer.
Ambika Kamath and Melina Packer are working to overturn biased, outdated views in biology.
In The Equality of the Human Races, Haitian scholar Anténor Firmin showed that science did not support division among the races.
Two researchers say that Rosalind Franklin knowingly collaborated with James Watson and Francis Crick to discover the molecular structure of DNA.
Mexican scientist Herminia Pasantes spent decades studying how nerve cells regulate their size and why it’s so vital.
Marie Maynard Daly was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry, but her own perspective on her research is missing from the historical record.
The stories of the women who assembled integrated circuits and wove core memory for the Apollo missions remain largely unknown.
By synthesizing norethindrone, one of the first active ingredients in birth control pills, Luis Miramontes helped usher in the sexual revolution.
She pioneered the field of molecular virology with her meticulous lab work and “green thumb” for tissue culture.
Two scientists explain how citizen scientists and their work could help provide a better understanding of Haiti’s seismic hazards.
‘Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond’ tells the story of how astronomer Vera Rubin provided key evidence for the existence of dark matter.
Black scientist J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. made nuclear physics calculations that helped build an atomic bomb.
"My Remarkable Journey" gives the backstory of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, the central character of the 2016 film "Hidden Figures."
Science News spoke with volunteers about what it takes to correct misinformation online during a pandemic.
In part because of her gender, Tharp was the right person in the right place at the right time to make the first detailed maps of the ocean’s bottom.
Researchers, a health care worker, a clinical trial volunteer and others share their experiences during the pandemic.
Wildlife biologist Danielle Belleny hopes the social media campaign represents black birders and nature enthusiasts of color in a hobby often stereotyped as white.
Two women have spent the winter on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard to collect data for climate scientists around the world.
Born 100 years ago, Julia Robinson played a key role in solving Hilbert’s 10th problem.
Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell speaks about winning the Breakthrough Prize, impostor syndrome and giving back.
A century after she published a groundbreaking mathematical theory, Emmy Noether gets her due.
With the 1918 influenza pandemic racing through military training camps, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps began accepting Black nurses two days after World War I ended. Nine of the first group of 18, shown here around 1919, went to Camp Sherman in Ohio.
Cecilia Payne (shown) discovers what stars are made of: mostly hydrogen and helium.
In a discovery that portends the possibility of atomic bombs, Otto Hahn (right) and Fritz Strassmann report evidence that uranium atoms produce barium when bombarded with neutrons. As explained by their collaborator Lise Meitner (left) and her nephew Otto Frisch, this is fission, the splitting of atoms.
Luis Miramontes (shown) made one of the first active ingredients in birth control pills – norethindrone.
Grace Hopper (shown) creates the first compiler. It translated instructions into code that a computer could read and execute, making it an important step in the evolution of modern programming languages.
Vincent G. Allfrey, Alfred E. Mirsky and Marie Maynard Daly (shown) report direct experimental evidence that protein synthesis requires RNA.
Narinder Singh Kapany successfully sent high-quality images through a bundle of optical fibers.
Columbia University researchers Bruce Heezen, Marie Tharp (shown) and Maurice Ewing create the first comprehensive map of an ocean basin, revealing a deep rift right at the center of a long underwater mountain chain cutting through the North Atlantic.
Marian Diamond provides early evidence for the brain’s ability to change, or plasticity, later summarizing her findings with the phrase, “Use it or lose it.”
Chemist Stephanie Kwolek (shown) invents Kevlar while looking for light, strong fibers to replace steel wires in car tires.
Vera Rubin (shown), Kent Ford and Norbert Thonnard measure the rotation rates of stars in outer parts of galaxies, strongly implying the existence of dark matter.