When Dr. Roberta Bondar's father noticed her interest in the sciences at an early age, he built a laboratory in their basement so she could conduct experiments. As a neurologist specializing in the nervous system and a background as a civil aviation medical examiner, Dr. Bondar was one of six candidates accepted into the Canadian Astronaut Program in 1983. She later became the first neurologist to travel to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1992. She conducted more than 40 advanced experiments aboard the space shuttle for 14 countries.
Summers filled with outdoor activities like canoeing and camping is said to have fuelled Alice Wilson's passion to become a geologist and paleontologist. Uncovering millions of years of history underneath the ground below us, Wilson's research is what started studies in the Rocky Mountains and the Arctic. Her focus on invertebrate fossils from the Paleozoic era were found throughout Canada. Her career at the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) ended at 82 years old.
After immigrating to Canada to escape Jewish persecution in Poland, Cecilia Krieger published a two part thesis titled "On the summability of trigonometric series with localized properties--on Fourier constants and convergence factors of double Fourier series." Upon receiving her doctorate in 1930, she became the third person in Canada to do so and went on to teach at the University of Toronto for 31 years.
Harriet Brooks' contributions to to the field of radioactivity was groundbreaking. Among many scientific revelations, after graduating from McGill University in 1898, Brooks research led to the discovery of a new element called radon and proved that radioactive elements could decay from one element to another.
Only One Common Thread
These scientists span many different generations and time periods. Their impressive contributions, often groundbreaking, occur in various fields that have little relationship to each other in research or subject matter. The only common thread that these scientist and researchers share is the discrimination they faced in their field because of their gender.
Dr. Bondar, who was told she could not be both a wife and a researcher was asked to discontinue her work shortly after graduating. Her later contributions alongside English physicist Ernest Rutherford and physicist and chemist, Marie Curie, in France were uncredited to avoid controversy.
Despite receiving a scholarship to pursue her PhD, Wilson was denied permission to study by GSC, which also barred women from conducting field work alongside male colleagues. Wilson bypassed this by conducting her research on short trips by herself.
Krieger taught at a university whose policies did not allow women to become professors unless they were earning money to "support their families" and it is said to have influenced her decision to not marry until she was well into her career. Despite this it was a decade until she was promoted from lecturer to assistant professor.
Credit Where Credit is Due
A new exhibition at Science World, Trailblazing — Women in Canada since 1867,presented by Acuitas Therapeutics, is putting the spotlight on women like Roberta Bondar. Exploring 150 years of women's issues in Canada, the exhibition calls attention to the achievements and successes of educators, scientists, inventors and technologists who also happen to be women.
Research has shown that highlighting the contributions of female scientists and researchers allow for better representation in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics).
Encouragement and mentorship can also play a huge role in getting more girls and women involved in STEAM careers, a commitment Science World upholds through Girls and STEAM. Our mission to ignite wonder and empower dreams includes the many brilliant girls and women of past and future generations. We are thrilled to celebrate and spotlight women who make this reality possible.
Discover more stories.
Visit our latest exhibition, Trailblazing — Women in Canada since 1867, presented by Acuitas Therapeutics, and be inspired by the stories of women who have played an important role in shaping the Canada we know today.