Rayner-Canham, Marelene and Rayner-Canham, Geoff (2000) Stefanie Horovitz, Ellen Gleditsch, Ada Hitchins, and the Discovery of Isotopes. Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 25 (2). pp. 103-108. ISSN 1053-4385
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In the scientific discovery process, one tends to focus on the "Great Name" and ignore the co-researcher who made the actual discovery or contributed significantly to the discovery. The first detection of pulsars was a classic example The observation was made by a graduate student, Jocelyn Burnell, but it was her supervisor, Anthony Hewish, who received the Nobel Prize for the discovery (1). In the first decades of the 20th century, this lack of attribution to the lab-bench researcher has had a significant effect of hiding the contributions of women scientists, for few were able to break through the "glass ceiling" and attain recognition as prime researchers. Atomic science was one area where women scientists played active though subordinate roles (2) (with the exceptions of Marie Curie and Lise Meitner). For example, Ernest Rutherford's first research assistant was a woman—Harriet Brooks. We have reported elsewhere on her career, including the discovery of the recoil of the radioactive atom (3). In this paper, the focus will be on the contributions of three women to the early work on isotopes: Stefanie Horovitz, Ellen Gleditsch, and Ada Hitchins. But first, it is necessary to review the groundwork that made the discovery of the existence of isotopes possible.
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