There is a serious problem in the United States that boys tend to be encouraged to go into science far more than girls (though even boys are not encouraged enough to go into science). Boys who show the least interest in science get chemistry sets, toy microscopes, all sorts of science related toys. In toy stores the science toys are in the “boys” area while girls get pretty pink tea sets and play kitchens. There’s nothing wrong with play kitchens, my boys enjoy theirs immensely, but this kind of separation of toys tends to guide girls away from science. Ask many Americans to name a woman scientist and they may come up with Marie Curie. That’s usually the best you’ll get. But in spite of the barriers placed in front of young women interested in science, there have been, and are, many great female scientists. I’ve mentioned Rosalind Franklin, who didn’t get nearly the credit she deserved, but some women, still unknown to most of the wider public, have received the accolades their work deserved.

Dorothy Hodgkin was a chemist who developed the field of protein crystallography using X-ray imaging. The techniques she discovered enabled scientists to see the most minute and intricate molecular structures. In 1964 Hodgkin received the Nobel Prize for her discover of the internal structure of vitamin B-12. Later she further refined her techniques until she was able to uncover the structure of insulin. She spent a great deal of time educating other scientists and the public about insulin and it’s relationship to diabetes. In addition to her scientific work, Hodgkin was an advocate for world peace and belonged to a number of international peace organizations.