Eunice Newton Foote – The First Person To Discover The Greenhouse Effect

Eunice Newton Foote was a pioneering scientist whose groundbreaking work laid the foundation for our understanding of the greenhouse effect. Born in Goshen, Connecticut, in 1819, she exhibited an insatiable curiosity and passion for science from an early age. In a time when opportunities for women in scientific pursuits were scarce, Foote defied societal norms and carved her path in the male-dominated scientific community of the 19th century.

Eunice Newton Foote

Her intellectual curiosity led her to delve into various scientific fields, but it was her meticulous experimentation with gases that would prove to be her most significant contribution.


Full Real Name: Eunice Newton Foote
Date of Birth: July 17, 1819
Age: 69 years (1819–1888)
Place of Birth: Goshen, Connecticut, United States
Profession: Scientist and Researcher
Nationality: American
Ethnicity: Caucasian (White)
Zodiac Sign: Cancer


In 1856, Foote conducted a series of groundbreaking experiments, during which she meticulously examined the heat-absorbing properties of different gases, including carbon dioxide. This research would become the cornerstone of her landmark paper titled “Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays,” presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in 1856.

Eunice Newton Foote 2

Foote’s seminal work not only earned her recognition among her peers but also revealed a profound understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere and its role in regulating our planet’s temperature. Her remarkable discovery highlighted the pivotal role that certain gases, like carbon dioxide, play in trapping heat from the Sun, effectively creating what we now know as the greenhouse effect. This groundbreaking revelation laid the groundwork for further scientific exploration into climate science and the impact of human activities on the Earth’s delicate balance.

Despite the significance of her discoveries, Eunice Newton Foote’s contributions have remained relatively overlooked in historical accounts of scientific breakthroughs. This article aims to shed light on her life, her pioneering work on the greenhouse effect, and the importance of recognizing her role in shaping our understanding of climate science. By delving into her journey and the context of her time, we can gain a deeper appreciation for her scientific brilliance and her lasting impact on our knowledge of the world we inhabit.

Early Life and Education

Eunice Newton Foote’s formative years were marked by a relentless curiosity and an innate desire to understand the world around her. Born in Goshen, Connecticut, in 1819, she grew up in an intellectually stimulating environment that encouraged exploration and learning. Her family recognized and supported her inquisitive nature, allowing her to pursue an education at a time when formal opportunities for women in science were limited.

During her early years, Foote developed a keen interest in various scientific subjects, sparking her fascination with experimentation and discovery. Although her formal education was limited compared to that of her male counterparts, she demonstrated an impressive ability to absorb knowledge from books, lectures, and discussions within her community. Foote’s determination and love for learning ultimately laid the foundation for her extraordinary contributions to science.

Eunice Newton Foote 3

As she reached adolescence, her passion for science continued to flourish, leading her to engage with some of the prominent thinkers and educators of her time. The encouragement and mentorship from her family and local intellectuals played a pivotal role in nurturing her passion for scientific inquiry. Through self-directed study and guidance from those around her, Foote acquired a solid understanding of various scientific disciplines, further igniting her desire to pursue a career in scientific exploration.

Despite societal norms that discouraged women from entering the male-dominated realm of science, Foote was undeterred. In the mid-19th century, she found opportunities to attend lectures and participate in discussions on scientific topics, challenging the gender constraints of her era. Her perseverance in overcoming societal barriers would shape her future educational journey and set her on a path of scientific discovery that would ultimately change our understanding of the Earth’s climate.

Scientific Curiosity and Interests

Eunice Newton Foote’s journey into the realm of science was driven by an insatiable curiosity that began at a young age. From her earliest memories, she displayed an inquisitive nature, constantly seeking to understand the workings of the natural world. Her childhood was filled with moments of wonder and amazement, as she closely observed the changing seasons, studied the behavior of plants and animals, and questioned the mysteries of the universe.

Foote’s fascination with science only intensified as she grew older. She voraciously read scientific literature and eagerly engaged in discussions with intellectuals and scholars, exploring a wide range of scientific disciplines. Her determination to learn and understand led her to delve into topics such as physics, chemistry, meteorology, and astronomy. This broad exploration of scientific subjects laid the groundwork for her future contributions as a pioneering scientist.

Eunice Newton Foote 4

Beyond her theoretical pursuits, Foote’s passion for science also manifested in hands-on experimentation. She was not content with merely absorbing knowledge; instead, she sought to actively participate in the scientific process. Foote’s natural inclination towards experimentation drove her to conduct various scientific tests and observations, seeking empirical evidence to support her growing understanding of the natural laws governing the world.

Her fervent desire to explore and discover extended beyond her personal curiosity. Foote recognized the potential of science to improve the world and enhance human knowledge. In a time when opportunities for women in science were scarce, she pushed against societal norms and sought ways to contribute her findings to the broader scientific community. Her tenacity and dedication to expanding the boundaries of scientific knowledge would later culminate in her groundbreaking work on the greenhouse effect, forever changing our understanding of the Earth’s climate.

In summary, Eunice Newton Foote’s passion for science and exploration was a driving force that fueled her remarkable journey as a pioneering scientist. Her inquisitive nature, thirst for knowledge, and hands-on approach to experimentation paved the way for her groundbreaking discoveries. By delving into the depths of scientific inquiry, she not only fulfilled her own intellectual curiosity but also left an enduring impact on the field of climate science. Her story serves as a testament to the transformative power of scientific curiosity and the significance of following one’s passion to uncover the mysteries of the natural world.

The 1856 Paper

In 1856, Eunice Newton Foote presented her seminal paper titled “Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This groundbreaking paper marked a significant milestone in the field of climate science and our understanding of the greenhouse effect.

In her paper, Foote detailed a series of meticulous experiments that explored the heat-absorbing properties of different gases. Through these experiments, she observed that certain gases, such as carbon dioxide, possessed the ability to absorb heat from the Sun’s rays more effectively than others. This observation led her to propose that variations in the concentration of these gases in the Earth’s atmosphere could have a significant impact on the planet’s overall temperature.

Eunice Newton Foote 5

Foote’s paper was particularly notable for its empirical approach, as she not only relied on theoretical deductions but also supported her findings with concrete experimental evidence. This scientific rigor and commitment to empirical validation were rare for the time and underscored the credibility of her research.

The significance of Foote’s findings in “Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays” lies in its prescient recognition of the greenhouse effect. Foote astutely recognized that certain gases acted as “blankets” for the Earth, trapping heat and preventing it from escaping into space. Her pioneering insights laid the foundation for understanding how the greenhouse effect regulates our planet’s temperature, making life on Earth possible.

Foote’s research on the greenhouse effect was not only ahead of its time but also highly influential in shaping subsequent climate science studies. While her work was not widely recognized during her lifetime, it paved the way for further investigations into the role of greenhouse gases in global warming and climate change. Today, her contributions are acknowledged as a critical stepping stone in the scientific exploration of the Earth’s delicate atmospheric balance and the factors influencing our planet’s climate.

Overlooked and Forgotten

Despite her groundbreaking discoveries on the greenhouse effect, Eunice Newton Foote’s contributions to science were unfortunately overshadowed and forgotten for various reasons. Firstly, the 19th century was a time when women were marginalized and excluded from mainstream scientific circles. Gender bias and societal norms limited opportunities for women to gain recognition and have their work acknowledged, leading to a lack of visibility for female scientists like Foote.

Secondly, Foote’s paper on the greenhouse effect was presented at a time when climate science was in its infancy. The scientific community of the mid-19th century was more focused on other areas of research, and the significance of her findings may not have been fully grasped at that time. As a result, her groundbreaking work did not receive the attention it deserved, and its impact on climate science remained largely unacknowledged for decades.

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In recent years, there has been a growing effort to rediscover and acknowledge Eunice Newton Foote’s legacy in climate science. Modern researchers and historians have delved into historical archives to uncover her pioneering work and shed light on her contributions. By bringing her story to the forefront, they aim to correct historical oversights and celebrate her significant role in shaping our understanding of the greenhouse effect.

Academic institutions and organizations have also taken steps to honor Foote’s memory. Various initiatives have been launched to raise awareness about her work and achievements, highlighting the challenges she faced as a woman in science during her time. These efforts not only recognize her scientific brilliance but also serve as a reminder of the importance of promoting gender equality and diversity in the scientific community.

Moreover, acknowledging Foote’s role has broader implications for women in science today. By recognizing her groundbreaking work, current and future generations of female scientists are inspired to pursue their passions, breaking down barriers that have historically hindered women’s progress in the field. Foote’s story serves as a powerful testament to the resilience and brilliance of women in science, emphasizing the need to celebrate and uplift their contributions in shaping the course of scientific knowledge.

In conclusion, Eunice Newton Foote’s contributions to climate science were overlooked and forgotten due to gender biases and the limited focus on climate research during her time. However, recent efforts to rediscover her legacy have led to increased recognition of her pioneering work. By celebrating her achievements, we not only honor Foote’s memory but also promote inclusivity and diversity in the scientific community, ensuring that the contributions of women in science are acknowledged and celebrated for generations to come.

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  1. There is also a list of scientists which have debunked the greenhouse effect starting in the 19th century with Kirchhoff and Thomson. Let’s also not forget Wood in 1909 and Gerlich/Tscheuschner after 2000.
    The greenhouse effect is an unscientific hoax, a kind of substitute religion to benefit a small amount of rich and powerful people -> the usual.

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