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“If a woman does brilliant work but nobody notices, can we call her a genius?”
 
Lise Meitner turned physics on its head when she was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission of uranium. She collaborated with Otto Hahn and Otto Robert Frisch. They were talked about for a Nobel Prize, and in 1944 the award came through for ‘the discovery of the fission of heavy atomic nuclei’ but the winner was … Otto Hahn.
 
Several scientists and journalists have called her exclusion “unjust. However, Meitner has received many posthumous honors, including the naming of chemical element 109 meitnerium in 1992.

 
Drawn together by their shared love of music and exceptional talents, famed composer Felix Mendelssohn and his older sister Fanny developed a close relationship that endured throughout their lives. While Fanny’s gender prohibited her from enjoying the same social opportunities or support in developing her musical gifts, her talents appeared to be nearly as formidable as those of her more famous brother. Felix would regularly submit his compositions to Fanny’s discerning musical ear, taking her critical advice to heart and modifying or excising material that she found questionable.

Before her death at age 41, Fanny witnessed changing attitudes toward women in musical professions, resulting in a handful of her works being published and thereby fulfilling her lifelong dream of being considered a serious composer. (Library of Congress)

 

“Why have there been no female Mozarts?”

A female Mozart quite literally existed: Maria Anna Mozart, the older sister of the brilliant and prolific composer Wolfgang. She might have been his equal if her talent hadn’t been left to molder.

When Wolfgang Mozart was young, his talent was expertly nurtured as his father took him on tour in Europe, introducing him to composers and musicians who advised and encouraged him.

Maria Anna, known as Nannerl, also had extraordinary talent: She performed on the harpsichord and toured with her brother when they were both young. Some reports say she was better than her little sibling and that he idolized and learned from her. At age 12, she was called one of the best musicians in Europe.

But it didn’t really matter. Once she hit her teens, her father deemed it inappropriate for her to perform anymore and sent her home to get married.

 

Gifted chemist Rosalind Franklin was one of the key figures in the discovery of the structure of DNA, but for many years she received no recognition.

Using a technique she developed herself, Franklin took X-rays that showed DNA’s helical structure. Using Franklin’s photographs and their own data, fellow King’s College researchers James Watson and Francis Crick created their famous DNA model. Watson and Crick walked away with the credit and the Nobel Prize. Franklin’s contribution was not acknowledged. Some have called it the most egregious snub of a woman scientist in history.

After Franklin’s death at age 37 from ovarian cancer, Crick admitted that her contribution had been critical to their breakthrough discovery.