Move over, Einstein.
Can you name five female scientists from history?
Maybe you named one, or two. Chances are you remembered Marie Curie, the famed two-time Nobel Laureate whose work led to the discovery of radioactivity. Yet there are hundreds of female scientists whose work has been foundational to science as we know it today–but many people don’t know their names, their faces, or their achievements.
“They were discouraged from getting an education, for fear it would hurt them as wives and mothers. But they persisted.”
The neuroscientist-turned-designer Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is on a mission to change that. Her project Beyond Curie is a series of graphic posters that highlight 32 female scientists from around the world–perfect for hanging in science classrooms.
“There’s such a rich history of women kicking ass in science, and very few people know about it. Researching their stories, it became really clear we’re standing on the shoulders of giants,” she says. “They were discouraged from getting an education, for fear it would hurt them as wives and mothers. But they persisted. Their stories are inspiring and the world should know their names.”
The women she’s made collages for so far include Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, Chen-Shiung Wu, a prominent 20th-century physicist who contributed to the Manhattan project, and Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.
Phingbodhipakkiya launched the project on Kickstarter at the end of January, hoping not only to fund the production of the posters, but to also create a community around the goal.
She asked her backers what the project meant to them, and why it mattered. “I’ve heard of many of these women’s discoveries, but not that it was a woman who did it,” one donor wrote to her. “And now, with what is happening in the U.S., with the political climate and normalising of misogynistic comments I feel it is even more essential that we put the effort into recognising these women.”
She crowdsourced suggestions for scientists from the community as well; because of her background in neuroscience, Phingbodhipakkiya initially had included many women from the biological sciences. But she kept hearing one name again and again–Grace Hopper, the computer scientist famed for coining the term “computer bug”–of whom she’d never heard. “I was a little angry I didn’t know about her before,” she says.
Phingbodhipakkiya has pursued other projects at the intersection of design and science, including The Leading Strand, which paired neuroscientists with designers who could render complex ideas in simpler terms to help the public understand the scientists’ work. She hopes to turn Beyond Curie into an exhibition, and is on the hunt for a publisher to turn the project into a book. Any leftover funds will be donated to the Association for Women in Science.
“Ultimately, I hope that a lot of eyes get on the project so that more people can learn about all these amazing women,” she says, “and we can stop thinking that a picture of a scientist is a guy with crazy hair.”