lightning handsWhen Esther Conwell got her first job, there wasn’t even a way for her company to pay her. This was because the company never thought it would be possible for a woman to have that job. It was a job everyone thought only men could do.

Esther was interested in electricity. She wanted to know more about why electricity transferred through some substances and not others.

Have you ever wondered why you have to plug your computer into the wall to get electricity? Why do you need two prongs on the plug? And why doesn’t the electricity just fly out of the wall and go where it needs to go?

Maybe you even know electricity is dangerous. You might have felt a shock or seen a tiny blue spark when you’re plugging something into the wall.

Esther really wanted to know more about why we could get electricity to go through copper wires as much as we liked, but it wouldn’t travel through something else, such as rubber. She began researching how electrons, the tiny invisible pieces that make electricity, move through different things.

electrons

As part of her research, Esther was able to see how electricity moved through things like silicon. When she did that, she helped open the way for the computer age. All the things that you and your parents use today – your computers, tablets, phones, video games – use this discovery to help make them work.

Esther ConwellWhen people made fun of her and didn’t even have a job for her because they’d never heard of a woman engineer, Esther kept working. After she figured out how electricity moved through other materials, she started paying attention to how it moved through human bodies.

Did you know you have electricity inside of you?

Esther didn’t get to finish her research on how electricity moves through the body, but other people have built on what she started. Good thing she didn’t listen to any of the people who made fun of her before. Her discoveries have helped us change the world.

Playing with Lightning