This year, Google has done an amazing job at highlighting female innovators in its daily Google Doodles, and today is no exception. Today's Google Doodle celebrates the 155th birthday of the American geneticist Nettie Stevens. Stevens was ahead of her time in many ways, and made groundbreaking discoveries in the field of genetics, specifically with understanding sex and gender.
Stevens' studies began in 1896. At a time when very few women pursued higher education, Nettie Stevens moved from her home in Massachusetts to attend Stanford University, and eventually graduated with a master's degree in biology. She then attended Bryn Mawr, where she continued her graduate studies. She was awarded a grant to study abroad in Germany at the Zoological Institute at Würzburg. There she studied the role of chromosomes in heredity under Theodor Boveri, which inspired her later and most significant work.
After receiving her PhD from Bryn Mawr in 1903, Stevens went on to work as a research assistant at the Carnegie Institute. In 1905, Stevens' research on sex determinism was published. Through her study of mealworm chromosomes, she discovered that sex is determined by the X and Y chromosomes carried by the father's sperm. According to The Verge, before her research was published, people believed that it was either the environment or the mother that determined the biological sex of a child. Though her findings were not immediately accepted as scientific fact, her research changed the way scientists understood sex determinism and the field of genetics, forever.
Nettie Stevens died of breast cancer in 1912, just eight years after earning her PhD. Though her science career was short, her work was critical, and her discoveries monumental. She was one of the first American women to be recognized for her contributions to science.
Today, you can check out the Google Doodle of Stevens at her microscope, and click on it for more information about this badass science pioneer. Happy birthday, Nettie! (And if you want to learn about other awesome ladies that history has overlooked, you can read about Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger, an early animation pioneer, or British inventor Hertha Marks Ayrton.)