It really is a shame that men can not recognise womens acheiments r we not supposed 2 live in an equal world where both sexs r equal? makes me wonder!.
Photograph from Science Source
Published May 19, 2013
In April, National Geographic News published a story about the letter in which scientist Francis Crick described DNA to his 12-year-old son. In 1962, Crick was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, along with fellow scientists James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.
Several people posted comments about our story that noted one name was missing from the Nobel roster: Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist who also studied DNA. Her data were critical to Crick and Watson's work. But it turns out that Franklin would not have been eligible for the prize—she had passed away four years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the prize, and the Nobel is never awarded posthumously.
But even if she had been alive, she may still have been overlooked. Like many women scientists, Franklin was robbed of recognition throughout her career (See her section below for details.)
She was not the first woman to have endured indignities in the male-dominated world of science, but Franklin's case is especially egregious, said Ruth Lewin Sime, a retired chemistry professor at Sacramento City College who has written on women in science.
Over the centuries, female researchers have had to work as "volunteer" faculty members, seen credit for significant discoveries they've made assigned to male colleagues, and been written out of textbooks.
They typically had paltry resources and fought uphill battles to achieve what they did, only "to have the credit attributed to their husbands or male colleagues," said Anne Lincoln, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, who studies biases against women in the sciences.
Today's women scientists believe that attitudes have changed, said Laura Hoopes at Pomona College in California, who has written extensively on women in the sciences—"until it hits them in the face." Bias against female scientists is less overt, but it has not gone away.
Here are six female researchers who did groundbreaking work—and whose names are likely unfamiliar for one reason: because they are women.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Born in Northern Ireland in 1943, Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars in 1967 while still a graduate student in radio astronomy at Cambridge University in England.
Pulsars are the remnants of massive stars that went supernova. Their very existence demonstrates that these giants didn't blow themselves into oblivion—instead, they left behind small, incredibly dense, rotating stars.
Bell Burnell discovered the recurring signals given off by their rotation while analyzing data printed out on three miles of paper from a radio telescope she helped assemble.
The finding resulted in a Nobel Prize, but the 1974 award in physics went to Anthony Hewish—Bell Burnell's supervisor—and Martin Ryle, also a radio astronomer at Cambridge University.
The snub generated a "wave of sympathy" for Bell Burnell. But in an interview with National Geographic News this month, the astronomer was fairly matter-of-fact.
"The picture people had at the time of the way that science was done was that there was a senior man—and it was always a man—who had under him a whole load of minions, junior staff, who weren't expected to think, who were only expected to do as he said," explained Bell Burnell, now a visiting astronomy professor at the University of Oxford.
But despite the sympathy, and her groundbreaking work, Bell Burnell said she was still subject to the prevailing attitudes toward women in academia.
"I didn't always have research jobs," she said. Many of the positions the astrophysicist was offered in her career were focused on teaching or administrative and management duties.
"[And] it was extremely hard combining family and career," Bell Burnell said, partly because the university where she worked while pregnant had no provisions for maternity leave.
She has since become quite "protective" of women in academia. Some individual schools may give them support, but Bell Burnell wants a systemic approach to boost the numbers of female researchers.
She recently chaired a working group for the Royal Society of Edinburgh, tasked with finding a strategy to boost the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math in Scotland. (Learn more about Bell Burnell.)
Born in 1922 in the Bronx, Esther Lederberg would grow up to lay the groundwork for future discoveries on genetic inheritance in bacteria, gene regulation, and genetic recombination.
A microbiologist, she is perhaps best known for discovering a virus that infects bacteria—called the lambda bacteriophage—in 1951, while at the University of Wisconsin.
Lederberg, along with her first husband Joshua Lederberg, also developed a way to easily transfer bacterial colonies from one petri dish to another, called replica plating, which enabled the study of antibiotic resistance. The Lederberg method is still in use today.
Joshua Lederberg's work on replica plating played a part in his 1958 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, which he shared with George Beadle and Edward Tatum.
"She deserved credit for the discovery of lambda phage, her work on the F fertility factor, and, especially, replica plating," wrote Stanley Falkow, a retired microbiologist at Stanford University, in an email. But she didn't receive it.
Lederberg also wasn't treated fairly in terms of her academic standing at Stanford, added Falkow, a colleague of Lederberg's who spoke at her memorial service in 2006. "She had to fight just to be appointed as a research associate professor, whereas she surely should have been afforded full professorial rank. She was not alone. Women were treated badly in academia in those days."
Born in Liu Ho, China, in 1912, Chien-Shiung Wu overturned a law of physics and participated in the development of the atom bomb.
Wu was recruited to Columbia University in the 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project and conducted research on radiation detection and uranium enrichment. She stayed in the United States after the war and became known as one of the best experimental physicists of her time, said Nina Byers, a retired physics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In the mid-1950s, two theoretical physicists, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, approached Wu to help disprove the law of parity. The law holds that in quantum mechanics, two physical systems—like atoms—that were mirror images would behave in identical ways.
Wu's experiments using cobalt-60, a radioactive form of the cobalt metal, upended this law, which had been accepted for 30 years.
This milestone in physics led to a 1957 Nobel Prize for Yang and Lee—but not for Wu, who was left out despite her critical role. "People found [the Nobel decision] outrageous," said Byers.
Pnina Abir-Am, a historian of science at Brandeis University, agreed, adding that ethnicity also played a role.
Wu died of a stroke in 1997 in New York.
Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1878, Lise Meitner's work in nuclear physics led to the discovery of nuclear fission—the fact that atomic nuclei can split in two. That finding laid the groundwork for the atomic bomb.
Her story is a complicated tangle of sexism, politics, and ethnicity.
After finishing her doctoral degree in physics at the University of Vienna, Meitner moved to Berlin in 1907 and started collaborating with chemist Otto Hahn. They maintained their working relationship for more than 30 years.
After the Nazis annexed Austria in March 1938, Meitner, who was Jewish, made her way to Stockholm, Sweden. She continued to work with Hahn, corresponding and meeting secretly in Copenhagen in November of that year.
Although Hahn performed the experiments that produced the evidence supporting the idea of nuclear fission, he was unable to come up with an explanation. Meitner and her nephew, Otto Frisch, came up with the theory.
Hahn published their findings without including Meitner as a co-author, although several accounts say Meitner understood this omission, given the situation in Nazi Germany.
"That's the start of how Meitner got separated from the credit of discovering nuclear fission," said Lewin Sime, who wrote a biography of Meitner.
The other contributing factor to the neglect of Meitner's work was her gender. Meitner once wrote to a friend that it was almost a crime to be a woman in Sweden. A researcher on the Nobel physics committee actively tried to shut her out. So Hahn alone won the 1944 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his contributions to splitting the atom.
"Meitner's colleagues at the time, including physicist Niels Bohr, absolutely felt she was instrumental in the discovery of nuclear fission," Sime said. But since her name wasn't on that initial paper with Hahn—and she was left off the Nobel Prize recognizing the discovery—over the years, she has not been associated with the finding.
The nuclear physicist died in 1968 in Cambridge, England. (Learn more about Meitner's career.)
Born in 1920 in London, Rosalind Franklin used x-rays to take a picture of DNA that would change biology.
Hers is perhaps one of the most well-known—and shameful—instances of a researcher being robbed of credit, said Lewin Sime.
Franklin graduated with a doctorate in physical chemistry from Cambridge University in 1945, then spent three years at an institute in Paris where she learned x-ray diffraction techniques, or the ability to determine the molecular structures of crystals. (Learn more about her education and qualifications.)
She returned to England in 1951 as a research associate in John Randall's laboratory at King's College in London and soon encountered Maurice Wilkins, who was leading his own research group studying the structure of DNA.
Franklin and Wilkins worked on separate DNA projects, but by some accounts, Wilkins mistook Franklin's role in Randall's lab as that of an assistant rather than head of her own project.
Meanwhile, James Watson and Francis Crick, both at Cambridge University, were also trying to determine the structure of DNA. They communicated with Wilkins, who at some point showed them Franklin's image of DNA—known as Photo 51—without her knowledge.
Photo 51 enabled Watson, Crick, and Wilkins to deduce the correct structure for DNA, which they published in a series of articles in the journal Nature in April 1953. Franklin also published in the same issue, providing further details on DNA's structure.
Franklin's image of the DNA molecule was key to deciphering its structure, but only Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work.
Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958 in London, four years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the Nobel. Since Nobel prizes aren't awarded posthumously, we'll never know whether Franklin would have received a share in the prize for her work. (Learn more about Franklin and Photo 51.)
Born in 1861 in Vermont, Nettie Stevens performed studies crucial in determining that an organism's sex was dictated by its chromosomes rather than environmental or other factors.
After receiving her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, Stevens continued at the college as a researcher studying sex determination.
By working on mealworms, she was able to deduce that the males produced sperm with X and Y chromosomes—the sex chromosomes—and that females produced reproductive cells with only X chromosomes. This was evidence supporting the theory that sex determination is directed by an organism's genetics.
A fellow researcher, named Edmund Wilson, is said to have done similar work, but came to the same conclusion later than Stevens did.
Stevens fell victim to a phenomenon known as the Matilda Effect—the repression or denial of the contributions of female researchers to science.
Thomas Hunt Morgan, a prominent geneticist at the time, is often credited with discovering the genetic basis for sex determination, said Pomona College's Hoopes. He was the first to write a genetics textbook, she noted, and he wanted to magnify his contributions.
"Textbooks have this terrible tendency to choose the same evidence as other textbooks," she added. And so Stevens' name was not associated with the discovery of sex determination.
Hoopes has no doubt that Morgan was indebted to Stevens. "He corresponded with other scientists at the time about his theories," she said. "[But] his letters back and forth with Nettie Stevens were not like that. He was asking her for details of her experiments."
"When she died [of breast cancer in 1912], he wrote about her in Science, [and] he wrote that he thought she didn't have a broad view of science," said Hoopes. "But that's because he didn't ask her."
And now we'd like to ask: Who would you add to this list of female researchers who did not get the credit they deserved for their work?
I would love to see Maria Montessori, one of the first female physicians in Italy, to receive the attention she deserves for her work. Also facing discrimination, she almost wasn't allowed into medical school but even when she did make it in, she had to perform human dissections alone because it was inappropriate to do so in the presence of other males. She persevered and continued on to study child development while creating an educational philosophy complete with materials that continues to be used today. Montessori's educational method has impacted people like Julia Child, the Google founders, and Alexander Graham Bell.
I think that the first wife of Albert Einstein should be in this list. People know so little about her, and I think she deserves to be known.
Although she wasn't necessarily a scientist, Henrietta Lacks was not credited with her own cells by Johns Hopkins Hospital. The cells were the first cells to become immortal, infinitely dividing because of mutations due to cervical cancer. These cells, or HeLa cells, have had an enormous impact on biotechnology because they are used to this day in laboratory experiments and research. They are so popular that I found out my boyfriend's dad works with them in this lab at work!
Women have suffered great injustices from not being credited for their contributions to science, whether intellectual or literally biological!
There are also many many male scientists who are overlooked and not recognised for various reasons. I bet you could make an even longer list of those. To make this sexist claim in science legitimate, you would need to study whether results presented by a female researcher are less likely to get published and publicised than similar ones from a male researcher; I highly doubt that, at least nowadays.
Vera Rubin, for accurate studies discovering dark matter.
Science is of reason. It is reasonable to understand women did contribute to science in the past and still do. Honor in recognition is honor in integrity; something that cannot be disregarded. Women scientists in the past were overlooked through the lens of ignorance and bias and by the general rule of social conformity. Something that is without a doubt ironic and unreasonable to the scientific mind, because it is through the act of experimentation and analysis one forges new understanding to conventional ideas.
Where is Marie Curie? She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris (La Sorbonne), and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in Paris' Panthéon.
All everyone ever needs to remember is that men and women are not separate species -- we're all simply human. That's it. Human. There will be smart humans, there will be dumb humans, some tall, some short, some fat, some thin, some loud, some quiet, but they're all just ... human. Humans with different characteristics, different talents and mannerisms picked up from whatever childhood they have. Accept it, move on, and ignore what the exteriors look like, because we're all born from the same place and we all have an equal shot at living, and we all gain different experience from our different characteristics.
"Rosalind Franklin always liked facts. She was logical and precise, and impatient with things that were otherwise. She decided to become a scientist when she was 15, and passed the examination for admission to Cambridge University in 1938. At 26, Franklin had her PhD and the war was just over. She began working in x-ray diffraction -- using x-rays to create images of crystalized solids. She pioneered the use of this method in analyzing complex, unorganized matter such as large biological molecules, and not just single crystals.
"In 1950, she was invited to King's College to join a team of scientists studying living cells. The leader of the team assigned her to work on DNA with a graduate student. Franklin's assumption was that it was her own project. The laboratory's second-in-command, Maurice Wilkins, was on vacation at the time, and when he returned, their relationship was muddled. He assumed she was to assist his work; she assumed she'd be the only one working on DNA. They had powerful personality differences as well: Franklin direct, quick, decisive, and Wilkins shy, speculative, and passive. This would play a role in the coming years as the race unfolded to find the structure of DNA.
"Franklin made marked advances in x-ray diffraction techniques with DNA. She adjusted her equipment to produce an extremely fine beam of x-rays. She extracted finer DNA fibers than ever before and arranged them in parallel bundles. And she studied the fibers' reactions to humid conditions. All of these allowed her to discover crucial keys to DNA's structure. Wilkins shared her data, without her knowledge, with James Watson and Francis Crick, at Cambridge University, and they pulled ahead in the race, ultimately publishing the proposed structure of DNA in March, 1953.
"The strained relationship with Wilkins and other aspects of King's College (the women scientists were not allowed to eat lunch in the common room where the men did, for example) led Franklin to seek another position. She headed her own research group at Birkbeck College in London. But the head of King's let her go on the condition she would not work on DNA. Franklin wrapped up her DNA work and went on to other studies. She turned her attention to viruses, publishing 17 papers in five years. Her group's findings laid the foundation for structural virology.
"While on a professional visit to the United States, Franklin had episodes of pain that she soon learned were ovarian cancer. She continued working over the next two years, through three operations and experimental chemotherapy and a 10-month remission. She worked up until a few weeks before her death on April 16, 1958, at the age of 37 in Chelsea, London.
"Exposure to X-ray radiation is sometimes considered a possible factor in her illness, though she was no more careless than other laboratory staff of the time. Other members of her family have died of cancer, and the incidence of cancer is known to be disproportionately high amongst Ashkenazi Jews [through a BRCA gene founder mutation]."
How sadly ironic that the very woman who set the stage for the DNA structure discovery, which in 1994 helped make it possible to genetically test and confirm BRCA carriers like Angelina Jolie and me (with familial cancer holocausts generation, after generation, after generation), did not have access the test that could have saved her life so she could go on with the research she loved and win a Nobel Prize.
This is not a suitable article for National Geographic. But it does suggest a really major N.G. editorial shift in the direction of Political Correctness. Which I'd noticed in the N.G. book Atlas of American History, where several chapters were simply turned over to "Black Studies Department" propagandizing. The National Geographic Society is a very ancient and respected society; but it could ruin itself rapidly if it follows this route. The phony "Matilda Effect" etc.
I don’t know the others, but the obvious distortions about the most famous case, Rosalind Franklin, cast doubt on how the author of his article presents all the other women’s stories. Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously, and Dr. Franklin didn’t live long enough to be eligible.
Aside from that, it is doubtful she did anything worthy of that prize. She had taken the x-ray crystallography photos but had let them sit having no idea what they meant. The technical skill she displayed in taking the images was competent, but not particularly noteworthy. There were multiple, identical crystallography images available at the time, which were similarly ignored or misinterpreted. The genius was in the fact that Watson and Crick tied the images in with their other work, and recognized that this confirmed their hypothesis that DNA formed a double helix, something Franklin, and everyone else (including Linus Pauling) had missed.
"The Nobel is never awarded posthumously."
Not true- Ralph Steinman died hours before the committee chose him for the award in Medicine, 2011.
These examples of withholding recognition, holding back and containing the capabilities and talents of these women is awful and distressing.
This issue is i encrusted in our society and it is very sad and outrageous to see our mothers, sisters, and friends experiencing it.
I totally agree with some opinions and comments. It is a real and true loss to us all when the system of meritocracy fails, whether that failure was due to bullying over race, gender, ethnicity, religion, politics, age, or for whatever reason.
Over the years, one thing is true when it comes to dealing with unfairness, bias, preconceived notions, inequality, and injustice such as those mentioned in the above article. Nothing changes unless it is faced up, confronted, and defied. It is, most of the time the mean, as weird and brutal as it could sound or be, that has us and the society in general, grow and move away from these shameless societal thoughts and behaviors.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell's work in 1967 laid the foundation for my dad's discovery of the Optical Pulsar a year later. http://www.aip.org/history/mod/pulsar/pulsar1/02.html My dad is W. John Cocke.
I was surprised that Madame Curie wasn't mentioned. Her early work with radium, paved the way for much needed research into nuclear physics. Her husband, Pierre, was also a scientist.
Photo 51 was taken by Raymond Gosling, not by his advisor, Rosalind Franklin.
When I obtain scientific data using public money, I am required by law to disclose this information to anyone who asks for it. It was no different in Franklin's time. This false feminist narrative of "theft" of what is ultimately public property is nonsence.
Putting aside the legalities, we can also look at this from a purely ethical point of view.
Franklin had photo 51 in her exclusive possession from May 1952 until early 1953, when it was shown to Watson. During that year, why did Franklin not come up with the structure of DNA herself?
People who peddle vindictive feminist revisionism should ask themselves "how long should this photograph have remained hidden from public view, holding back all of the medical advances of structure based medicine and modern pharmacology?"
Would setting back modern medicine by one year (until 1954) satisfy the feminists? Three years? How many hundreds of thousands of lives should needlessly be lost to cancer, heart disease, and infectious diseases so that one scientist can get "credit" for a discovery that she was only able to half make?
Having quickly read the comments to date I must commend all concerned for the civility in their discourse. I wich this phenomenon would spread around the web and make it a better tool for debate rather than the latrine trench of invective that such volleys usually trun into by the second or third comment.
An interesting article that highlights an issue all too often ignored in many disciplines. I think we have come a long way and the culture of academic departments is constantly changing. Regarding intelligence curves and distributions, the variability hypothesis is a largely discredited theory in psychological research. The idea that males have greater variability in genetic traits was common in the early 1900s and supported by many leading psychologists of the time, such as Granville Stanley Hall, Edward Thorndike and James Cattell. Since then it has come to light that the theory was supported by very little empirical evidence and that many observations could be accounted for by socio-cultural biases. In fact, in psychology degrees, the history of the variability hypothesis is often taught alongside Galton's eugenics, as examples of how psychological science has been misused to oppress parts of society. The use of these arguments by commenters here is interesting, because of how pervasive this idea is, even in scientific communitities.
There are areas that are better left to women and there areas that men do much better. The problem arises when both sexes try to outdo each other and venture into areas that do not traditionally belong to them. People are born men and women not to compete with each other but compliment each other. That how nature works. Animals are born male and female to perform its functions in order for species to survive. And we are animals according to Darwin's theory of evolution. And yet women wants equal rights and yet they want some special treatments and privileges. Equal right is not what men, women, LGBT really needs but respect to each other and recognition for those deserving to be recognized. For if there is respect certainly, rights are never violated. In the meantime for those who are still struggling to be recognized, just be patient for real achievements will not go unrewarded forever though late sometimes.
@Kyrill TWhy are you "doubting" rather than approaching the question with an open mind? That "doubt" without evidence is anathema to good science.
Is this "nowadays" enough for you? I'm sure it's very, very easy to dismiss the idea that sexism still plays a tremendous part in society if you don't ever have to experience it firsthand.
@Kyrill T Not exaclty. You would expect that if 2% of all scientists were female and significantly fewer that 2% of studies being published were written by female authors, then discrimination has likely taken place. You seem to imply that if females only made say, 20% of all scientists, that we should set the bar for discrimination by supposing that there is a 50-50 shot a female will get published. Also, the CLAIM is MORE that women don't make into the HISTORY BOOKS despite their paramount works! I don't know HOW ya' could argue with a straight face that this point is not both strong and sound! I'm sure you'll find a way, though... ;) Cheers!
@Eitak Nostrebor Yes. I demand cultural change! Then, the rest will follow...
@Claudia Mink Great comment!
@Sona Newton Hi Sona. I realize Marie Curie is a pioneering woman in science, but compared to the rest of the women I decided to include in this article, she is relatively well-known. Although, I'm sure she did face her share of discrimination
@Debby Bock If only everyone could be considered on their merits, rather than on the nature of their birth...
Women are not > men. Women are different by a circumstance of birth.
@Marly Wietzke your detailed review on R. Franklin's work is better than the main article and I appreciate that you shared the facts that I think were not shared in the main article.
In fact, I wonder, since the theme of the article was only to show a pessimistic attitude towards women in science, many other aspects of what REALLY happens inside had been less described.
Thanks for sharing.
@Marly Wietzke Thanks for giving us a deeper understanding of Dr. Franklin and her work.
@George Farnhouse Why does this bother you so much?
@George Farnhouse Sorry to offend you, but women are 50 pct of the population, this is a concern for all of us in the future of science. Go back to reading your TinTin.
@Thomas Lynch still, it would have been ever-so-nice of them if they were to include her as a source in their academic papers, as-is otherwise the mandatory practice in submitting a thesis ...or so i heard.
@Thomas Lynch She would probably have gotten the prize for no other reason than she was a women.
Sadly, we live in a female dominated politically correct society. To a fault.
This is why the Chinese are winning.
@Sophia Georghiou That's more a 'whoopsie' than an intentional act.
@Aloys Ongla You sound like you think someone would actually elect you.
While I agree that she is one of the great scientists of the modern age, she is also well-known and this article was about female scientists who were overlooked by history. I'm not saying that she was given full credit for her discoveries and I would guess she was not. However, she did at least gain recognition and is mentioned in most elementary science books.
@Anthony ZaratA few points: Dr. Franklin was withholding information from a competing institution. I am not sure how your results are published but I do not think your data is given out to the competition before you analyze it. Second, it is well known that it was Dr. Franklin who insisted that the phosphate groups were on the outside. Further, she had articles in press a month before Watson and Crick submitted their work. Therefore, your point on the ethics of disseminating information is not even justified. Lastly, and the reason this is a feminist issue are the comments of Watson in The Double Helix. Namely, that she "was not unattractive and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes". Very professional criticism, no?
@Phil Brewer It would be better if they used Disqus and a simple default-best-on-top threaded discussion.
@Clark Kent"according to Darwin's theory of evolution" ha ha. That is so irrelevant with the technology to feed, save and let everyone live to reproduce (somewhat). It is no longer a free for all. Even if it were survival of the fittest how would traditional gender roles help our species? - even though a woman doesn't cook or clean she may still be able to reproduce. And just because a woman chooses a career in science our species will somehow fall apart? Also, there clearly is a respect issue, you clearly don't respect people who delve into roles that are not their 'traditional gender roles' as you are telling them not to, and then you claim that all we need is respect? Okay. Get out of the bush, you sexist butt.
@Clark Kent Funny how the above scientists were as great as your non-existance...and they were women.
what?? there are plenty of women that could have done a better job than you at being a human, thinker in any branch of intellectual and emotional reasoning I believe. jesus
Thanks for a typical sexist remark. No agenda here, just recognition.
@Jane Lee No kidding- there was a reason that she was a Polish woman who married a Frenchman. Apparently she couldn't get a research position in Poland at the time, explicitly because she was a woman.
bizarre comment - everyone is 'different by a circumstance of birth' however that does not justify ignorance and jealousy in science. Intelligence and scientific aptitude is not between your legs.
Ah, you're a dog eating chineseman! That explains it. Why have you learnt English if the Chinese are 'winning' ? Surely, the life of a cheap immigrant is not worth the sacrifice?
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