Women’s History Month: Meet the First Climate Scientist, Eunice Newton Foote

Largely unsung, we honor Eunice Newton Foote who was the first climate scientist, during Women’s History Month.

She showed that carbon dioxide traps the heat of the sun, demonstrating the greenhouse effect that causes global warming, a discovery often mistakenly attributed to physicist John Tyndall.

Ms. Foote was the first person to identify the connection between CO2 and a warming planet, but her paper detailing this effect, “Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays,” was presented by a man, John Henry of the Smithsonian Institution, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in 1856.

Ms. Foote was not only a scientist and inventor, she was also a prominent activist in the early women’s rights movement advocating for, among other things, the universal right to vote. Her scientific work was largely ignored until accidentally rediscovered in 2010.