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The Forgotten Climate Change Pioneer

All this time I've been wrong about climate change. In my article Are We Entering a New Mini Ice Age? I implied that global warming is simply the greenhouse effect at work in our atmosphere, and stated, "John Tyndall first proved the existence of the greenhouse effect more than 150 years ago". But that's not exactly true.

The greenhouse effect, the trapping of the sun's heat in our atmosphere, is the reason the earth is warming.  The carbon and methane pumped into the air by human activity is the primary driver of this warming. And John Tyndall did indeed demonstrate the greenhouse effect more than 150 years ago.

But Tyndall was not the first. Eunice Newton Foote was, publishing her paper Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun's Rays back in 1856.

When it came time to read her paper in front of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the organization's rules prohibited her from doing so. Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, read her paper for her, prefacing it with, "Science was of no country and of no sex. The sphere of woman embraces not only the beautiful and the useful, but the true."

John Tyndall's work was—and continues to be—important, but it was not groundbreaking. Instead, Tyndall built on the foundation already laid by Eunice Foote. It's time to give credit where it is due.

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