LAST week was the first time that many of us heard of Dr June Almeida – the Glasgow-born scientist who discovered the first coronavirus.

We now know there have been many female scientists written out of history, whether purposefully by male colleagues taking credit for their work, or ‘accidentally’ by a field that didn’t value their discoveries or contributions.

It got us thinking about other unsung science heroes; women whose work and discoveries have shaped the fields of medicine, genetics, physics and more.

Glasgow Science Centre’s team told us about some of the female scientists who inspire them and who deserve more recognition.

Natalie Williams

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s groundbreaking discovery was pulsars: rapidly rotating neutron stars. These stellar lighthouses are used to test theories, map the cosmos and maybe help us communicate with aliens someday.

She graduated from the University of Glasgow and moved to Cambridge to continue her research. That’s where she made and reported her breakthrough. The 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics was given to her colleague, Anthony Hewish, for “his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars”.

Which was of course, Dame Jocelyn’s discovery.

In 2018, Dame Jocelyn was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. She donated the $3million prize to establish the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund. The scholarship provides funding for women, under-represented ethnic minorities and refugee students to become physics researchers.

Celine Smith

Rosalind Franklin was a Londoner, a chemist and an x-ray crystallographer, born in 1920. In 1952, Franklin captured a high-resolution photograph, known as photo 51, which showed the structure of DNA. This was a groundbreaking accomplishment in biology.

Her colleague Maurice Williams shared Franklin’s photograph with James Watson and Francis Crick at Cambridge University. Williams, Watson and Crick were able to decipher the shape of DNA from this photograph: a double helix.

Franklin passed away in 1958 and, before her death, never received credit for taking one of science’s most important photographs.

In 1962, Williams, Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for the discovery of the shape of DNA.

Franklin may not have received credit then, but she is now known as one of the most important female scientists. The European Space Agency has named their Mars Rover, which will launch in 2022, Rosalind Franklin.

Emma Woodham

Henrietta Lacks was an ordinary woman who unknowingly made an extraordinary contribution to science. In 1951, at the age of 30, Henrietta was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Before her death, a sample of Henrietta’s tumour was taken without consent. Her tumour cells, or ‘HeLa’ cells as they were named, were the first to ever grow in a dish. They were shared with labs all over the world, unknown to Henrietta or her family.

HeLa cells went on to open the doors to modern medicine, saving thousands of lives by allowing the development of new treatments for cancer, AIDS and polio. We now remember Henrietta’s story, her contribution to medicine and the importance of consent.

Sabah Sardar

Barbara McClintock is a geneticist who is known for her work with maize. She made numerous discoveries in her lifetime which have strengthened our understanding of genetics.

McClintock’s findings were often mocked and disregarded by the scientific community; this led to McClintock no longer publishing her work. However, it did not deter her from continuing with research.

During her career, McClintock developed a technique for visualising maize chromosomes to observe them during reproduction, linked genes on maize chromosomes to their physical traits and, most notably, discovered transposable elements also known as “jumping genes”.

Transposable elements are DNA sequences that can move from one position in the genome to another and play an important regulatory role. In 1983, she received the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine for her discovery of transposable elements. This was more than 30 years after she first discovered them.