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Podcast Profile: Lost Women of Science

podcast imageTwitter: @LostWomenofSci
64 episodes
2021 to present
Average episode: 24 minutes
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Categories: Science-Adjacent

Podcaster's summary: For every Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin whose story has been told, hundreds of female scientists remain unknown to the public at large. In this series, we illuminate the lives and work of a diverse array of groundbreaking scientists who, because of time, place and gender, have gone largely unrecognized. Each season we focus on a different scientist, putting her narrative into context, explaining not just the science but also the social and historical conditions in which she lived and worked. We also bring these stories to the present, painting a full picture of how her work endures.

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List Updated: 2024-Feb-21 13:40 UTC. Episodes: 64. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2024-Feb-15 • 13 minutes
The Industrial Designer Behind the N95 Mask
Sara Little Turnbull used material science to invent and design products for the modern world.
2024-Feb-08 • 29 minutes
The Universe in Radio Vision
Ruby Payne-Scott helped unlock a new way of seeing the universe, but to keep her job, Ruby had to keep a big secret.
2024-Feb-01 • 15 minutes
From Our Inbox: Forgotten Electrical Engineer’s Work Paved the Way for Radar Technology
Sallie Pero Mead made major discoveries about how electromagnetic waves propagate, which allowed objects to be detected at a distance.
2024-Jan-25 • 37 minutes
Best of: A Complicated Woman, Leona Zacharias
A blindness epidemic among premature babies, and a brilliant biologist whose story hits close to home here at Lost Women of Science.
2024-Jan-11 • 13 minutes
From Our Inbox: Vera Peters - The Doctor Who Helped Spare Women From Radical Mastectomy
Vera Peters began her career studying treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. She used techniques that had seen positive outcomes on Hodgkin’s to treat breast cancer patients, and she discovered a treatment that was equally effective and much less invasive than the radical mastectomy, saving hundreds of thousands of women from that life-altering surgery.
2024-Jan-04 • 32 minutes
Adventures of a Bone Hunter
Annie Montague Alexander went on paleontology expeditions most women could only dream of in the early 1900s.
2023-Dec-14 • 20 minutes
Emma Unson Rotor: The Filipina Physicist Who Helped Develop a Top Secret Weapon
Emma Unson Rotor worked on the proximity fuze, a groundbreaking piece of World War II weapons technology that the U.S. War Department called “second only to the atomic bomb.”
2023-Dec-07 • 26 minutes
Flapper of the South Seas: A Young Margaret Mead Travels To The South Seas
Anthropologist Margaret Mead journeyed to American Samoa in 1925 to explore adolescent development. Fame and controversy followed the publication of her book Coming of Age in Samoa.
2023-Nov-30 • 28 minutes
The Devastating Logic of Christine Ladd-Franklin
Christine Ladd-Franklin is best known for her theory of the evolution of color vision, but her research spanned math, symbolic logic, philosophy, biology, and psychology. Born in Connecticut in 1847, she was clever, sharp-tongued, and never shied away from a battle of wits. When she decided to go to college instead of pursuing a marriage, she convinced her skeptical grandmother by pointing to statistics: there was an excess of women in New England, so a husband would be hard to find; she’d better get an edu...
2023-Nov-23 • 22 minutes
Best Of: The Feminist Test We Keep Failing
What are the rules of engagement when writing the stories of female scientists? We talk with the women who came up with the Finkbeiner Test, a checklist to keep sexism out of the narrative.
2023-Nov-16 • 11 minutes
From Our Inbox: Mária Telkes, The Biophysicist Who Harnessed Solar Power
Hungarian-American biophysicist and inventor Mária Telkes, who was nicknamed The Sun Queen, created a solar oven and one of the first solar-heated houses in 1948.
2023-Nov-09 • 31 minutes
The Woman Who Demonstrated the Greenhouse Effect
In 1856, decades before the term “greenhouse gas” was coined, Eunice Newton Foote demonstrated the greenhouse effect in her home laboratory. She placed a glass cylinder full of carbon dioxide in the sun, and found that it heated up much faster than a cylinder of ordinary air. Her conclusion: more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in a warmer planet. Several years later, a British scientist named John Tyndall conducted a far more complicated experiment that demonstrated the same effect and revealed ho...
2023-Nov-02 • 35 minutes
Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, America's First Black Female Public Health Pioneer
While the Civil War raged, Rebecca Crumpler became the first Black woman in the U.S. to earn an MD and to write a medical book, a popular guide with a preventive approach
2023-Oct-26 • 37 minutes
Flemmie Kittrell and the Preschool Experiment
In the 1960s, a Black home economist at Howard University recruited kids for an experimental preschool program. All were Black and lived in poor neighborhoods around campus. Flemmie Kittrell had grown up poor herself, just two generations removed from slavery, and she’d seen firsthand the effects of poverty. While Flemmie earned a PhD from Cornell, most of her siblings didn’t make it to college. One of her sisters died at just 22 years old of malnutrition. And it was the combination of these experiences th...
2023-Oct-19 • 12 minutes
From Our Inbox: A Microbe Hunter in Oregon Fights the 1918 Influenza Pandemic
It's a global pandemic. The year is not 2020 but 1918, and Harriet Jane Lawrence is developing a vaccine against the deadliest influenza outbreak the world has ever seen.
2023-Oct-12 • 35 minutes
The English Lit Major Who Cracked Nazi Codes
How Elizebeth Smith Friedman went from scouring Shakespeare for secret codes to taking down Nazi spy rings
2023-Oct-05 • 30 minutes
Who was Christine Essenberg? A remarkable zoologist almost lost to history
How eight pages hidden in an archive led to the the discovery of the remarkable life of one of the first female zoologist
2023-Sep-28 • 32 minutes
Dr. Sarah Loguen Fraser, an ex-slave’s daughter, becomes a celebrated doctor
Born in 1850, Sarah Loguen found her calling as a child, when she helped her parents and Harriet Tubman bandage the leg of an injured person escaping slavery. When the Civil War ended and Reconstruction opened up opportunities for African Americans, Loguen became one of the first Black women to earn a medical license. But quickly, racist Jim Crow laws prevailed. At the urging of family friend Frederick Douglass, Loguen married and, with her new husband, set sail for the Dominican Republic where more was pos...
2023-Sep-21 • 35 minutes
A Flair for Efficiency: The Woman Who Redesigned the American Kitchen
In the late 1920s, Lillian Gilbreth enlisted her children — she had 11— in an experiment: bake a strawberry shortcake in record time. Kitchens at the time tended to have haphazard configurations—pots and pans could be at one end of the kitchen, the stove in another, and the utensils in another room altogether—but Lillian figured that with a well-designed kitchen, she could slash baking time dramatically and make cooks’ lives easier. And if anyone was going to hack the kitchen, Lillian Gilbreth was the woman...
2023-Sep-14 • 26 minutes
Part 2: Why Did Lise Meitner Never Receive the Nobel Prize for Splitting the Atom?
We continue the story of Jewish physicist Lise Meitner, the first person to understand that the atom had been split. This is the second in a two-part series featuring new letters from and to Lise Meitner translated by author Marissa Moss, author of The Woman who Split the Atom: The Life of Lise Meitner (2022). The letters show the fraught and complex relationship between Otto Hahn and Meitner and the role that antisemitism played in the decision to give the Nobel Prize in 1944 to Hahn and not Meitner. Afte...
2023-Sep-07 • 26 minutes
Part 1: Why Did Lise Meitner Never Receive the Nobel Prize for Splitting the Atom?
New translations of Meitner’s letters show that antisemitism before and after World War II robbed Meitner of the 1944 Nobel Prize that went to her long-time collaborator chemist Otto Hahn.
2023-Aug-31 • 11 minutes
They Remembered the Lost Women of the Manhattan Project So That We Wouldn't Forget
In the early 1990s, two physicists, Ruth Howes and Caroline Herzenberg, began looking into a question that had aroused their curiosity: Just who were the female scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project? Nearly ten years and hundreds of interviews later, they documented hundreds of women across a broad spectrum of scientific fields — physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics — who played crucial roles in the top-secret race to build a nuclear weapon that would end World War II. Since the film Oppenhe...
2023-Aug-24 • 22 minutes
Meet the Physicist who Spoke Out Against the Bomb She Helped Create
Kay Way was a nuclear physicist who was an expert in radioactive decay. After working on the atomic bomb she became an outspoken opponent of nuclear weapons.
2023-Aug-17 • 19 minutes
The Story of the Real Lilli Hornig, the Only Female Scientist Named in the Film Oppenheimer
Lilli Hornig is the only female scientist mentioned by name in the film Oppenheimer. Here's the story of the real Lilli Hornig.
2023-Aug-03 • 16 minutes
No Place for a Woman in Mathematics? The Woman Who Ended up Supervising The Computations that Proved an Atomic Bomb Would Work
Naomi Livesay supervised the mechanical computing operation at Los Alamos and worked on computations that formed the mathematical basis for implosion simulations. Despite her crucial role on the project, she has rarely been mentioned as more than a footnote. Until now.
2023-Jul-27 • 15 minutes
Blood, Sweat, and Fears: The Story of Floy Agnes Lee, the Young Woman Who Analyzed the Blood of Manhattan Project Scientists
Floy Agnes Lee was a hematologist at Los Alamos. Recruited to the Manhattan Project while still a student at University of New Mexico, she collected blood samples from many Manhattan Project scientists, including Louis Slotin, following an accident that exposed him to a fatal dose of radiation. Years after the war, she returned to Los Alamos National Laboratory and conducted research on the impact of radiation on chromosomes.
2023-Jul-20 • 12 minutes
One of Many Lost Women of the Manhattan Project: Leona Woods Marshall Libby
Leona Woods Marshall Libby was the only woman hired onto Enrico Fermi's team at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. She was just 23 years old, already had a Ph.D. in molecular spectroscopy and a deep understanding of vacuum technology. She was also the only woman present at the world’s first successful nuclear chain reaction. Amid all this, she managed to conceal her pregnancy until two days before her baby was born.
2023-Jul-13 • 2 minutes
Women of the Manhattan Project: Trailer
During World War II, thousands of scientists and engineers worked on the Manhattan project, the top secret push to develop an atomic bomb that would end the war. Two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did just that, while also killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians. The devastating potential of nuclear weapons sparked a moral controversy that continues to this day. Hundreds of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project were women. Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you a fe...
2023-Jul-06 • 7 minutes
From Our Inbox: Alessandra Giliani, 14th-century Italian anatomist
700 years ago, a girl braved all for science. Alessandra Giliani was the first female anatomist of the western world. The only way she could work was disguised as a man.
2023-Jun-22 • 29 minutes
The Highest of All Ceilings: Astronomer Cecilia Payne
Cecilia Payne was in her early 20s when she figured out what the stars are made of. Both she and her groundbreaking findings were ahead of their time. Continuing the legacy of women working at the Harvard Observatory, Cecilia charted the way for a generation of female astronomers to come. This episode of Lost Women of Science: shorts follows Cecilia’s journey of discovery, journals her drive and determination against all odds, and takes you to the Harvard Observatory itself to walk in Cecilia’s footsteps.
2023-Jun-01 • 20 minutes
What's in a Street Name? Everything.
In 1992, a Dutch doctor named Josh von Soer Clemm von Hohenberg wrote a letter to Henning Voscherau, the mayor of Hamburg, Germany, requesting that a street be named after Marie Nyswander. The doctor had never met Marie, but he had founded a clinic for treating people with drug addiction, and he’d seen methadone treatment — co-developed by Marie — save lives. Four years later, doctors gathered on a street in northwest Hamburg to celebrate that street’s new name: Nyswanderweg. We’re investigating how German...
2023-May-04 • 35 minutes
The Doctor and the Fix: Chapter 5
Marie Nyswander died in 1986. She’d achieved almost everything she set out to, but she wanted more: even better medications than methadone, fewer regulations, and the holy grail—a cure for addiction. Addiction science has come a long way since Marie’s time, and it turns out, a lot of the field’s earlier assumptions were probably wrong. Neuroscientist Kent Berridge explains why wanting something isn’t the same as liking it. But a cure is still out of our reach
2023-Apr-27 • 1 minutes
Reminder about next episode and an update
A reminder that our next episode is scheduled to come out next Thursday! In the meantime, we’ve hit a slight snag—Katie has COVID—but she’s resting up, and we’re doing our best to get that episode to you on time. Stay tuned for updates. We'll be back very soon.
2023-Apr-20 • 39 minutes
The Doctor and the Fix: Chapter 4
Marie thinks she’s finally found a treatment for heroin addiction that will work as a long-term solution, but not everyone agrees—including some of the people she’s trying to help.
2023-Apr-13 • 35 minutes
The Doctor and the Fix: Chapter 3
After years of disappointing results in her quest to treat heroin addiction, Marie Nyswander was more than ready to try something new. When she met a prominent doctor from the prestigious Rockefeller Institute, they embarked on an experiment that would define both of their careers and revolutionize the treatment of addiction for decades to come. But not everyone was happy about it.
2023-Apr-06 • 28 minutes
The Doctor and the Fix: Chapter 2
A young psychoanalyst specializing in sexual issues starts getting calls for help – about something else entirely.
2023-Mar-30 • 28 minutes
The Doctor and the Fix: Chapter 1
A young doctor looking for adventure abroad is posted to rural Kentucky, where she learns about addiction for the first time—and starts ruffling feathers.
2023-Mar-16 • 2 minutes
The Doctor and the Fix: Trailer
In 1965, a team of doctors at Rockefeller University announced what sounded like a miracle—they’d found a treatment for heroin addiction that actually seemed to work. For nearly two years, the researchers had been running an experiment with a small group of men, aged 19 to 37, who’d been using heroin for several years—and the results were astonishing. Men who’d been transfixed by heroin cravings for years, who had tried to quit before and failed, were suddenly able to return to their lives. One started pai...
2023-Jan-26 • 24 minutes
Of Chestnuts, Cherry Trees, and Mushroom Catsup: Flora Patterson, the Woman who Kept Devastating Blights from U.S. Shores
Flora Wambaugh Patterson, a widowed mother of two, played a crucial role in keeping fungal blights from U.S. shores.
2023-Jan-12 • 36 minutes
A Complicated Woman: Leona Zacharias
A blindness epidemic among premature babies, and a brilliant biologist whose story hits close to home here at Lost Women of Science.
2023-Jan-05 • 2 minutes
Introducing Lost Women of Science Shorts: Trailer
Our brand new mini-series – 30-minute episodes, each devoted to the story of one overlooked female scientists.
2022-Dec-01 • 28 minutes
The Woman Who Knocked Science Sideways
A special guest episode from Portraits
2022-Nov-17 • 21 minutes
The Feminist Test We Keep Failing
There's a test that we at Lost Women of Science seem to fail again and again: the Finkbeiner Test.
2022-Nov-03 • 34 minutes
The First Lady of Engineering: An Interview with Y.Y.'s Daughter, Carol Lawson
A special guest episode from Our Mothers Ourselves
2022-Oct-13 • 39 minutes
The First Lady of Engineering: Chapter 4
YY taught at Tennessee State University for 55 years. We look at her legacy as an engineer, an educator and a mom. And we investigate how HBCUs are training the next generation of Black scientists.
2022-Oct-06 • 37 minutes
The First Lady of Engineering: Chapter 3
What did YY actually do as a mechanical engineer? We dive into her work at NASA, and the history of the American space program.
2022-Sep-29 • 35 minutes
The First Lady of Engineering: Chapter 2
When YY started college at Howard University, there were three things she swore she’d never do: marry a tall man, become a teacher, and work for the government. But love and life had other plans.
2022-Sep-22 • 35 minutes
The First Lady of Engineering: Chapter 1
With her knack for fixing household appliances in early childhood, YY was practically born an engineer. And fortunately, she had a family that nurtured her atypical interest—even when the segregated South made pursuing it almost impossible.
2022-Sep-08 • 2 minutes
The First Lady of Engineering: Trailer
Yvonne Y. Clark, known as YY throughout her career, has also been nicknamed “The First Lady of Engineering,” because of her groundbreaking achievements as a Black female mechanical engineer. Season 3 of Lost Women of Science traces her trajectory, from her unconventional childhood interest in fixing appliances to civil rights breakthroughs in the segregated South; from her trailblazing role at historically Black colleges and universities to her work at NASA. What can YY teach us about what it means to be th...
2022-Sep-01 • 2 minutes
Meet our new cohost!
Carol Sutton Lewis, host of the podcast Ground Control Parenting, has long been interested in Black history. This season, she’s joining Lost Women of Science as a cohost to help tell the story of the mechanical engineer, Yvonne Young Clark. Known as Professor Clark to her students and YY to her engineering colleagues, YY’s career spanned academia and industry. She was a dedicated STEM educator and a champion of historically Black colleges and universities. Alongside cohost Katie Hafner, Carol will trace YY’...
2022-Jun-02 • 26 minutes
A Grasshopper in Tall Grass: The Weather Myth
When we first started researching Klára Dán von Neumann, we thought she was “the computer scientist you should thank for your smartphone's weather app.” It turns out, that’s not true.
2022-Apr-28 • 30 minutes
A Grasshopper in Tall Grass: Chapter 5
A new home, a new husband, and a new project.
2022-Apr-21 • 40 minutes
A Grasshopper in Tall Grass: Chapter 4
Klári von Neumann enters the Netherworld of computer simulations and postwar Los Alamos.
2022-Apr-14 • 38 minutes
A Grasshopper in Tall Grass: Chapter 3
The ENIAC, an early electronic computer, gets a makeover.
2022-Apr-07 • 40 minutes
A Grasshopper in Tall Grass: Chapter 2
Klári von Neumann arrives in Princeton just as war breaks out in Europe.
2022-Mar-31 • 38 minutes
A Grasshopper in Tall Grass: Chapter 1
Before she entered a world of secrecy, computers and nuclear weapons, who was Klára von Neumann?
2022-Mar-17 • 2 minutes
A Grasshopper in Very Tall Grass: Trailer
The first modern-style code executed on a computer was written in the 1940s by a woman named Klára Dán von Neumann–or Klári to her family and friends. And the historic program she wrote was used to optimize nuclear weapons. This season, we dive into this fascinating moment in postwar America through Klári’s work. We explore the evolution of early computers, the vital role women played in early programming, and the inescapable connection between computing and war.
2021-Dec-23 • 27 minutes
The Pathologist in the Basement: The Resignation
We investigate the curious, charged circumstances surrounding the resignation of the director of pediatrics at Columbia University's Babies Hospital, and one pathologist at the center of it all: Dorothy Andersen.
2021-Nov-25 • 37 minutes
The Pathologist in the Basement: Chapter 4
Dr. Andersen’s legacy creates hope for those living with cystic fibrosis today.
2021-Nov-18 • 29 minutes
The Pathologist in the Basement: Chapter 3
A missing portrait of Dr. Andersen takes us on a journey into the perils of memorialization—and who gets to be remembered.
2021-Nov-11 • 39 minutes
The Pathologist in the Basement: Chapter 2
The traces Dr. Andersen left behind provide glimpses into her life.
2021-Nov-04 • 31 minutes
The Pathologist in the Basement: Chapter 1
While performing an autopsy on the body of a young child, Dr. Dorothy Andersen made a startling discovery.
2021-Oct-20 • 3 minutes
The Pathologist in the Basement: Trailer
When Dr. Dorothy Andersen confronted a slew of confounding infant deaths, she knew the accepted diagnosis couldn’t be right. Her medical detective work led to our current understanding of Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that circuitously impacts the pancreas and lungs. But she is by no means a household name, and the details of her life get scarcer every day. Who was this scientist, and how did she come to quietly make such an important medical contribution?
2021-Oct-14 • 2 minutes
Lost Women of Science: Trailer
For every Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin whose story has been told, hundreds of female scientists remain unknown to the public at large. We illuminate the lives and work of a diverse array of groundbreaking scientists who, because of time, place and gender, have gone largely unrecognized. Each season focuses on one scientist, putting her narrative into context, explaining not just the science but also the social and historical conditions in which she lived and worked. We also bring these stories to the p...