Eunice Newton Foote was one of 12 children born in 1819 in Upstate New York. Her father was a distant relative of THE Isaac Newton. She had a strong interest in science. She also had a strong interest in painting.

As a young girl, she attended the Troy Female Seminary. The seminary encouraged students to attend a nearby science-based school. This was where Eunice obtained an interest in science. She never attended college.

Eunice was curious about the heating effect of the sun on the Earth’s atmosphere. She found moist air was more affected by the sun than dry air. She also tried to identify the effects of the sun on hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and enriched environments. She found that carbon dioxide trapped the most heat. She also found that it took longer for cooling when the sun was removed. She postulated that a greater level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase the temperature of the Earth.

Eunice was a visionary who foresaw what might happen if the levels of carbon dioxide were to increase in Earth’s atmosphere. The year was 1856.

She prepared a paper to be delivered at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). While women were, in principle, allowed to present papers at AAAS meetings, she asked a male colleague to present her paper hoping it would be better received. After the conference was over, the paper did receive some attention, but was soon forgotten.

Three years after her paper was presented, another researcher, John Tyndall, published a paper on the effect of carbon dioxide on atmospheric warming. Eunice’s paper was not cited. Tyndall’s work is now wrongly regarded as the foundational basis for climate research.

Why has Eunice Foote’s work been largely ignored as the earliest indication of the atmospheric warming? Is it because of her gender, her lack of academic credentials, or the methodology she used? There can be a debate about her lack of acceptance, but one thing is indisputable, Eunice Foote was the visionary that began our concern for atmospheric warming over 150 years ago.

Those who are visionaries are often hidden to history. Perhaps their work made us uncomfortable at the time. It is only much later that we recognize visionaries for their brilliance.

Being a visionary requires a high level of intelligence combining curiosity, experimentation, imagination, risk taking, and connecting ideas. How does one become a visionary? There isn’t a class you can take or a self-development guide. As a start, visionaries are curious people. They thrive on solitude. But what separates them from creative thinkers is their ability to think of a future perspective. That requires self-confidence, boldness, risk taking, and a unique perseverance in your beliefs under an overwhelming barrage of criticism. We can develop the traits necessary to sustain a visionary by mentoring and championing, but to look into the future is a God-given talent.

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“The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind.” – Samantha Morton (Actress)

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