In 2017, I wrote a series of stories for CBC.ca’s Canada 2017 project exploring what Canada would have been like without certain influential Canadians like Viola Desmond and Sir Sanford Fleming. One of my favourite stories to research was about Harriet Brooks.
There are shelves of books written about pioneering nuclear physicists Ernest Rutherford, Marie Curie and J.J. Thomson. There’s only one comprehensive biography of Harriet Brooks, who worked with all three of them.
Her research accelerated a field that has helped us develop nuclear fission, monitor radiation hazards in our own homes, and figure out how old the earth itself is — all at a time when women in sciences were encouraged to quit as soon as they found a husband.