Women Scientists
& Inventors

Five recent films—two documentaries and three features—about real-life women whose accomplishments in the male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics get their due on the big screen. The highlight is the Ithaca premiere of the new documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Lamarr was a glamourous actress from Hollywood’s golden age, but she was also a prolific inventor on the side. She, along with Hollywood composer George Antheil, were posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 for developing a frequency hopping technique at the beginning of WW II that could be used by the Allies to prevent jamming of torpedo guidance systems. The technique later became an important aspect for wireless communications. Previously thought of as just a very pretty face and not taken seriously, she is now considered one of the most important inventors of all time.

Gender discrimination is also on display in the Ithaca premiere of Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge, about the Polish-born, twice Nobel Prize winning physicist and chemist, a pioneer in the study of radioactivity, who was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris. Also part of the series, Hidden Figures, the story of the brilliant, gender and race barrier-breaking African-American women who worked for NASA and made possible John Glenn’s voyage into space, will return for an encore screening.

Elizabeth Marston, a psychologist, is credited, with her husband, William Marston, who created the 1940s Wonder Woman comic book character, for the development of the systolic blood-pressure test used to detect deception. This, however, is not the focus of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, which is more about the polyamorous relationship that existed among the Marstons and their lab assistant at Harvard University, Olive Byrne (the daughter of Ethel Byrne, who co-founded America’s first birth control clinic in 1916). Elizabeth is depicted as “a brilliant, stylish, foul-mouthed woman whose prickliness is the natural by-product of a lifetime of systemic sexism.” (A.V. Club)

Finally, the life of Jane Goodall—primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist and the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees—is portrayed in the enchanting documentary Jane, which is shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature Oscar. Celebrate all of these women and their accomplishments at Cornell Cinema this Spring in a series that is cosponsored with the Dept of Science and Technology Studies.