By Lina Younes
There is no doubt that being “the first” at something is often newsworthy. For example, being the first to reach the finish line or being the first to set a world record. However, how many times being “the first” is truly historic? Such is the case of some women who were true trailblazers in their fields.
Who are some of these women who made history through their achievements in the sciences? How about Marie Curie, the first woman to earn a Nobel Prize? In fact, to this date Marie Curie is the only woman to have earned two Nobel Prizes, the first in Physics in 1903 and in Chemistry in 1911.
Have you heard of Ellen Swallow Richards, a prominent 19th century industrial and environmental chemist in the United States? Ms. Richards had many firsts throughout her life. She was the first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first woman in America to earn a degree in chemistry and the first to coin the term “ecology” in 1892.
And today, I would like to mention another great woman who made her mark in the history books by becoming the first American women to fly in space in 1983. Sally K. Ride, she was the first woman and youngest person to fly aboard the space shuttle. After she left NASA in 1987, she became a professor of physics at the University of California and directed the University of California’s California Space Institute.
While Dr. Ride earned numerous accolades in the public and private sector, education was one of her passions. So she founded her own company in 2001, Sally Ride Science, to motivate girls and women to pursue careers in science, math, and technology.
Just yesterday, this inspiring woman lost a battle to pancreatic cancer. Yet, her life continues to be an inspiration to many in the United States and throughout the world. Thank you, Sally, for teaching us to reach for the stars. May you rest in peace.
About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.