Gender bias ‘Foote-note’ to climate science

Sept 2019—The discovery of rising carbon dioxide levels in the late 1800’s was not made by John Tyndall, who is often credited. It was made five years earlier by Eunice Foote.

She quickly learned at the Troy Female Seminary and from reading scientific journals that early nineteenth-century scientists were keenly interested in studying the role atmospheric conditions played in the temperature on earth. Foote was the first, however, to isolate the component gases that make up the atmosphere, thus discovering which gas became the hottest in sunlight. It was, she discovered, carbon dioxide. She then deduced that the more CO2 that’s pumped into the atmosphere, the hotter it gets. Then she brilliantly concluded from these two discoveries, “if … at one period of time of the [earth’s] history the air had mixed with a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action … must have resulted.”

Her published results had to be presented by a male colleague at a gathering of scientists in 1856 since women weren’t allowed in the hallowed proceedings. Five years later, Tyndall wrote a paper of similar findings and made no reference to her work. He’s gotten the credit ever since. A new book, Science Knows No Gender, intends to set the record straight.

Darcy HitchcockClimate science