Eunice Foote He had a magnificent job to present at the eighth annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a prestigious meeting in which scientists were called to share discoveries, discuss progress in their fields and prepare for the future. The document, which experimentally demonstrated the effects of the sun on certain gases, theorized for the first time the existence of greenhouse effect. However, the text that anticipated the climate science It could not be read by its own author. It was 1856 and the women were not allowed to present their scientific ideas, so it was his colleague Joseph Henry, a professor at the Smithsonian Institute, who did so. Despite the impressive results, Foote was condemned to oblivion.
In his speech on Monday before the plenary of the COP25Pedro Sánchez recognized the important contribution of this pioneer unknown to the vast majority. It has a curious history. Born as Eunice Newton in 1819 to a large family in Goshen, Connecticut, she received a strangely progressive education for the time that led her to become interested in science. His experiments, performed in a laboratory built in his home, were ingenious. He used four thermometers, two glass cylinders and a vacuum pump to isolate the gases from the atmosphere and expose them to sunlight. In this way, he realized that CO2 and water vapor absorbed enough heat to affect the weather. This led her to have a remarkable insight on carbon dioxide and the Earth's past climate.
Foote accomplished this feat three years before the British physicist and chemist of Irish origin John Tyndall, who has been considered until recently as the discoverer of the greenhouse effect. His more complex experiments had similar conclusions, but it is likely that the scientist did not even know what an amateur had done on the other side of the Atlantic.
However, while Tyndall's name has remained for posterity, Foote's has remained in the shadows. His study was not included in the AAAS Annual Records, a record of the documents presented at the annual meetings. It didn't matter that he was the best of all. Undoubtedly superior to that of her husband, the mathematician and inventor Elisha Foote, who also attended the meeting and was taken into account. Science was a world of men. For someone like her, who also actively participated in the women's rights movement, it didn't have to be easy to admit. Seven years before his work, he was present at the first Convention on the Rights of Women in Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848. There was presented a document that demanded equality with men in social status and rights legal, including the right to vote.
For his work on greenhouse gases, Foote received applause from the "Scientific American" magazine, which flattered her because she defended her opinions with "practical experiments." The American Journal of Science and Arts dedicated a page and a half and a summary appeared in the Annual of Scientific Discovery. Nothing else. His scientific career continued to barely stand out until his death in 1888. His figure was rescued from oblivion in 2011 by Raymond Sorenson, an independent investigator who found his article as read by Joseph Henry.
Precisely, in that reading the eminent Henry included a very successful preface that today has not lost an iota of strength and that could well be heard in this Madrid Climate Summit: «Science does not belong to a country or a sex. The sphere of women encompasses not only the beautiful and the useful, but the true ».
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