Sloan-Supported Films on Pioneering Women in Science

Last Friday marked the finale of Apple TV+’s series LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY, based on Bonnie Garmus’s novel of the same title. Starring Brie Larson, the 1950s-set series follows a woman chemist whose ambitions in the laboratory are sidelined by the misogyny of her time. After being told women belong in the kitchen, she becomes the host of a chemistry-based cooking show, reaching millions of women who face similar challenges. While based on a work of fiction, the project speaks to a harsh reality: far too many real women’s pioneering contributions to science have been underrecognized.

We have identified six Sloan-supported films inspired by the true stories of female scientists whose work belongs in the history books, all of which are available to watch right now.


BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY. Dir. Alexandra Dean. 2017. Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr (ZIEGFELD GIRL, SAMSON AND DELILAH) was known as the world’s most beautiful woman–Snow White and Cat Woman were both based on her iconic look. However, her arresting appearance and glamorous life stood in the way of her being given the credit she deserved as an ingenious inventor whose pioneering work helped revolutionize modern communication technology. An Austrian Jewish emigrant who invented a covert communication system to try to help defeat the Nazis during World War II, Lamarr was ignored by the scientific community at the time. It was only toward the very end of her life that it was discovered that her invention is the basis for secure Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth technologies. Currently streaming on Netflix.

DECODING ANNIE PARKER. Dir. Steven Bernstein. 2013. The story of Anne Parker, a sharp witted, funny and irrepressible young woman who watches her mother, then sister, fall victim to breast cancer. When, later, she herself is diagnosed with the disease, she is resolved to fight back against immeasurable odds. The film is also the story of Mary-Claire King, the geneticist whose discovery of the BRCA1 gene and its link to breast cancer forever changed the understanding of human disease. Hers is considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century. These two women are separated by thousands of miles, by circumstance, background and education, and yet their two lives gradually intertwine until a final, singular and life changing reckoning. Currently streaming on Prime Video.

HIDDEN FIGURES. Dir. Theodore Melfi. 2016. HIDDEN FIGURES uncovers the true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA who helped win the space race against America's rivals in the Soviet Union and, at the same time, sent the quest for equal rights and opportunity rocketing forwards. The film centers on Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who worked at NASA as "human computers" in the 1950s. HIDDEN FIGURES is based on the Sloan-supported book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. Currently streaming on Disney+.


HOT AIR Dir. Urvashi Pathania. 2019. It was 1856 when Eunice Newton Foote made a monumental discovery in climate science. Today, we all know her work, but not her name. This is her story. Currently streaming here on

INTO THE VOID. Dir. Yossera Bouchtia. 2018. Budding astronomer, wife, and young mother Vera Rubin prepares to present her new, groundbreaking research to the American Astronomical Society and discovers a prejudice that runs much deeper than she thought–one that forces her to reassess her own livelihood and weigh her dreams against society’s expectations for women, in this biopic drama set in 1950s New York. Currently streaming here on

THE BALL METHOD. Dir. Dag Abebe. 2018. Alice Ball, a 23-year-old African American chemist living in 1915 Hawaii fights against racial and gender barriers to find an effective treatment for leprosy. An almost forgotten true story of African American genius and contribution to world-health. Available to rent or buy on Prime Video.

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