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Women in Science

Women of science and the marks left by some of them throughout history!

The presence of women, and their deeds, in various areas and branches, for a long time was erased and even prohibited. However, female participation in Science is something that dates back to antiquity and has been gaining space and recognition over time. Despite this, women are still greatly affected by machismo and inequality.

The belief that women do not belong to study and work environments, but to domestic environments, has lasted for many years, however, the construction of feminist struggles against these beliefs through plural movements, conquered rights by and for women and continues in constant transformation.

In science, many women have left their marks, in the fields of Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Engineering, among others. In the fields of genetics, physiology and pharmacology, women were essential for the advancement of knowledge about the human body, as well as about microorganisms, which allowed the development of new therapies against infectious diseases. In this context, we will cite some of our great inspirations in modernity and talk about the mark left by them in the history of humanity. But it's important to remember that women have been writing history for much longer.

Hypatia of Alexandria, born in 370, in Egypt, for example, was the most famous researcher of antiquity, she studied astronomy, physics, mathematics and philosophy and became known for the invention of the densimeter, an instrument that has the function of measuring the density of liquids. When studies of her were discovered, Hypatia was murdered (in 416) by a group of Christians, who considered her research heresy and sentenced her to death.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, in the United States and Europe, the first Feminist Wave begins, in which women fight for equal rights with men, motivated by dissatisfaction with contractual differences, forced marriages and the prohibition of the right to choices about their own lives, because at this time, for example, women needed the permission of their husbands, or fathers, when single, to work.

With the rapid growth of the capitalist system and its consolidation, several technological advances in industries were made. To accompany this growth and supply the lack of manpower, it was convenient for women to be recruited to work, however, inequality was discrepant, and remains until the present day, with wages incompatible with those of men and women. strenuous hours.

It was in the periods of the Great Wars that the scenario began to change, as men went to the battlefields while women were responsible for the work and support of the family.

More recently, the women who have made history in Science and whom we love and admire are:

 Matilda Moldenhauer Brooks (1888-1981), a graduate of Harvard University in Biology and Cell Biology, made the discovery in 1932 that the methylene blue colored compound is also an antidote to carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning.

- Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934), discovered two new chemical elements: polonium and radium. Marie Curie was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and received the Prize twice in her lifetime.

- Gertrude Elion (1918-1999), who was rejected in 15 graduate programs because she was a woman, then accepted to be a laboratory assistant even without pay. Years later, she joined the large Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical group. In the 1950s, she participated in the development of a schematic method for drug production, which allowed her to produce drugs against leukemia, gout, transplant rejection and herpesvirus infections, such as acyclovir. Gertrude was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988.

- Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (1947), received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008 for the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, with her mentor Luc Montagnier, made in 1983, when the great AIDS epidemic was taking place. Knowing the infectious agent was extremely important to enable progress in the development of therapeutic methods to combat the disease. While still at graduation, Françoise became interested in the scientific world and looked for an internship in many laboratories, which, according to her, was difficult because she was a woman and very young. After months of rejection, she was finally admitted to one of the largest research centers in the world, the Institut Pasteur, in France, where she developed her entire career.

- Tu You-You (1930), born in China, her family has always valued her education very much, however, she had to take a two-year break from her studies when she contracted tuberculosis at age 16. When she went back to school, she knew she wanted to study to find a cure for diseases like the one that had afflicted her. In 1971, Tu You-You has perfected a low-temperature methodology to purify sweet wormwood extract, increasing its effectiveness and dramatically reducing its toxicity. In 1972, she obtained artemisinin as a pure pharmaceutical substance, and discovered its chemical structure. In 1973, Tu You-You carried out further experiments with artemisinin and accidentally produced a new drug, dihydroartemisinin, revealing that both are highly effective anti-malarial preparations, these drugs have become part of standard anti-malarial treatment worldwide. Youyou Tu was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

- Katherine Johnson (1918-2020), worked 33 years at NASA, where she broke several barriers that were imposed on women within the agency, being a black woman. She started out working as a human computer (a person who does calculations) and soon after, because of her talent, she started participating in meetings and larger projects. Her persistence led to her being promoted to leader of trajectory calculations and being included in mission teams to the Moon and Mars.

- Nise da Silveira (1905-1999), studied Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of Bahia, at the age of 21, and dedicated her life to psychiatry. The doctor became known for being against aggressive forms of treatment, such as electroshock, confinement and lobotomy. In addition, she pioneered research into emotional relationships between patients and animals. In recognition of her work, Nise received several titles and awards.

- Sônia Guimarães (1957), a black woman, graduated from the Faculty of Physics in 1979 and in 1989 became the first black Brazilian woman to obtain a doctorate from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, in England. She also started teaching at ITA (Instituto Tecnológico da Aeronáutica) in 1993, when she was one of the few women on campus, as the institute only started to accept female students in 1996.

Sônia continues to use her voice in the search for an end to racial and gender inequalities in science, participating in projects that aim to encourage girls to be interested in the exact sciences and also in entrepreneurship.


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