EUNICE NEWTON FOOTE
Women have been making significant contributions to science for centuries and receiving little to no credit for their work. My new project “Footeprint’ is inspired by the life of Eunice Foote (1819-1888) who discovered the heat-absorbing property of carbon dioxide and water vapor and she described and theorized the gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere in 1856 (!). She was the first to demonstrate what today we call the greenhouse effect.
Three years later, the well-known Irish physicist John Tyndall published similar results demonstrating the greenhouse effects of certain gases, including carbonic acid. Presently, Tyndall’s work is widely accepted as the foundation of modern climate science, while Foote’s remains in obscurity. The reason? Women were practically excluded from the world of science in the name of their supposed natural inferiority.
My painting ‘The scientist’ is a first introduction to Eunice and her important work, carried out in a male-dominated scientific world.
In my work I focus on telling lost or untold ‘herstories’ as a counterpoint to all the stories of men in ‘history’. I work on long-term projects where I research my subjects and in the process get inspired to create series of paintings that I use to tell the stories of these women. For this project I teamed up with John Perlin (Physics Department of University of California), who wrote a (yet unpublished) scientific biography on Eunice Foote. In weekly Zoom sessions he tells me all about her life and how important and startling her work has been. Couldn’t find a better help to get to know this fascinating lady.
Eunice had 6 sisters and 5 brothers, although the oldest sister died at two years old. Eunice was the second youngest. With mom and dad it made 14 at the kitchen table.