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Understanding how atmospheric gases absorb solar radiation and affect Earth’s temperature is fundamental to climate science. We now know that the pioneering work for this understanding was done in 1856, by a relatively unknown woman, Eunice Foote. Her story, which came to light only in 2011 (go.nature.com/2xky63a), shows that climate science and history intertwine in ways still relevant today, on the 200th anniversary of her birth.