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.
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 how it worked. Today, he’s widely known as the man who discovered the greenhouse gas effect. There’s even a crater on the moon named for him! Eunice Newton Foote, meanwhile, was lost to history—until an amateur historian stumbled on her story.