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# WOMEN WHO SHAPED MODERN PHYSICS

Marie Curie is the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in two
different scientific disciplines.
First, Marie Curie won in 1903 for her studies of radioactivity. She
shared the prize with her husband Pierre Curie and with the other
discoverer of radioactivity, Henri Bequerel. Originally, the Nobel
prize committee had only selected Pierre Curie but he refused to
accept it without proper acknowledgement of Maries contribution.
Then in 1911, Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her
discovery and studies of radium and polonium.
Only two women have ever won the Nobel Prize in physics.
Maria Goeppert Mayer won the Nobel Prize in 1963 for her model of
the structure of the atomic nucleus. Goeppert Mayer faced a great
deal of gender bias in her career: she had to work in unpaid
positions at Columbia University and University of Chicago, where
her husband was employed.
Austrian physicist Lise Meitner first developed the theory explaining
the process of nuclear fission.
However, she was overlooked by the Nobel Committee, who instead
awarded Meitners colleague Otto Hahn the prize in 1944. Meitner
came to be known as the mother of the atom bomb, although she
refused to work on the Manhattan Project after fleeing Nazi
Germany. Element 109 is called meitnerium in her honor.
Albert Einstein called German mathematician Emmy Noether a
creative mathematical genius.
Noethers Theorem is a fundamental idea on which much of modern
physics is built. Published in 1918, her theorem states that if an
object has symmetry i.e., if it looks the same regardless of
changing locations or times then this leads to conservation laws
in nature. Says Ghose: A simple example is a movie of the motion
of a ball when you throw it. The motion looks the same if you run
the movie backwards in time (time symmetry). This means that the
total energy of the ball remains the same (conservation of energy)
the energy just gets converted into different forms as the ball
moves. This is a simplified example, but the theorem is widely
applicable and is a real workhorse of modern physics.
British astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin
established that the sun and other stars are all composed mostly of
hydrogen.
Payne-Gaposchkin later became the first woman to chair a
department (astronomy) at Harvard.

Image:
1. Marie Curie
2. Maria Goeppert Mayer
3. Lise Meitner
4. Emmy Noether
5. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin