Eunice Newton Foote (July 17, 1819 – September 30, 1888) was the first person to discover that an increase in the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to a warming effect. In 1856, her work was presented at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), not by Eunice herself, but by a male colleague, Joseph Henry. In 1857, Eunice wrote a paper for the American Journal of Science, entitled “Circumstances affecting the heat of the sun’s rays”.
As is the case with many women scientists, Eunice’s work did not receive the recognition it deserved.
Between 1859 and 1861, John Tyndall also identified that carbon dioxide caused a greenhouse effect. There is some debate about whether he was aware of Eunice Foote’s work. John Tyndall’s work was rightly recognised and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research was founded at the University of East Anglia in 2000. Eunice Foote’s work was highlighted by American feminists from the 1970s onwards but her name is still less well known than that of male climate scientists.
Eunice Foote was also involved in the early women’s rights movement in the USA. In 1848, she attended the Seneca Falls Convention, the first gathering in the USA to centre women’s rights as its sole focus. She was also involved in the anti-slavery movement.
We’ve known about climate change for nearly two centuries. We only have a limited time to do something about it.
Here’s a short film about Eunice Foote.
Drawing of Eunice Foote – by Carlyn Iverson, NOAA Climate.gov