Eunice Newton Foote (1819-1888) was a Scientist, Inventor and Women’s Rights Campaigner

Eunice’s 1856 paper about her experiment “Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays,” was the first record of a physics article by a female scientist. Foote concluded that an atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide would give the earth a high temperature. She was the first to theorise how certain gases would interact with the Earth’s atmosphere. This was decades before the term ‘greenhouse’ gas was coined.

The significance of her work was not appreciated at the time. She was also unable to present her own paper at the Annual Meeting for the Advancement of Science. A male scientist, Joseph Henry, presented it for her.

The discovery of the greenhouse effect is often attributed to John Tyndall. Tyndall published his paper identifying the gases responsible for the greenhouse effect three years later than Foote.

Foote was regarded as an amateur scientist, whereas John Tyndall, as a recognised scientist, had access to more resources and stronger connections to other scientists. In addition, there were limited opportunities in higher education for women and the gate-keeping of scientific institutions meant that science was a largely male-dominated field.

Eunice Foote’s place in the scientific community, or lack thereof, weaves into the broader story of women’s rights.

Eunice was also a pivotal figure in women’s rights movements. She advocated for the universal right to work, amongst other things.