10 Women Scientists You Should Know

If you are needing a little mid-week inspiration, get to know these 10 incredible women who made – or are making – great strides that may not always land them in the history books.

Here’s to great women. May we know them, may we be them.

ONE – Marie Curie – Chemist

Marie Curie holding laboratory equipment.

Born in Warsaw in 1867, Marie Curie started her journey in science with her father as her teacher. She went on to study physics and mathematics in Paris, where she met her husband, Pierre Curie. She was the first woman to be the Professor of General Physics.

With her husband, Marie isolated polonium and developed methods to separate radium from radioactive residues. She is the only woman to ever receive two Nobel Prizes, one in Physics shared with her husband, and a second in Chemistry.

Learn more at: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1903/marie-curie/biographical/

TWO – Mae Jemison – Astronaut 

Image result for mae jemison

Known widely as the first African American woman in space, Mae Jemison is a master of more than space walking. She earned a bachelor of science in chemical engineering, a bachelor of arts in African and African-American studies, and a medical doctorate all before she was 26. She even served in the Peace Corps as a medical officer and spent time working in the Centers for Disease Control.

Inspired by Sally Ride, Mae applied to the NASA astronaut program and was accepted in 1987. In 1992, she traveled on space shuttle Endeavour with six other astronauts. She served as a Science Mission Specialist, a new position at the time which focused on scientific experiments. In space, she conducted bone cell research and tested how tadpoles develop in zero gravity.

Learn more at: https://www.space.com/17169-mae-jemison-biography.html

THREE – Jennifer Eberhardt – Social Psychology

Image result for jennifer eberhardt

A MacArthur Fellow, Dr. Jennifer Eberhart’s work as a social psychologist has revealed an unsettling association between race and crime. Using both laboratory studies and field experiments, she has shown that police officers more readily identify African American faces as criminal and that stereotypical ‘black’ features like dark skin and broad nostrils led to harsher sentences for defendants convicted of murdering a white person.

Recently, Dr. Eberhardt has begun to work with law enforcement to implement policies and practices that will build trust between the agencies and their communities. She also serves as a director of Stanford’s SPARQ, a program which uses behavioral science to change culture for the better.

Learn more at: https://web.stanford.edu/~eberhard/about-jennifer-eberhardt.html

FOUR – Rosalind Franklin – Chemist

Rosalind Franklin - from nature.com

Rosalind Franklin was born in 1920 to a wealthy Jewish family who encouraged her education. She studied physics and chemistry at Cambridge and went on to study the porosity of coal as her doctoral thesis. Rosalind studied X-ray crystallography in Paris before returning to work at King’s college.

There, she took a diffraction picture of DNA that ended up in the hands of Watson and Crick via her colleague, Wilkins. Without her work, they likely would have never figured out the structure of DNA.

Learn more at: https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/rosalind-franklin-a-crucial-contribution-6538012/

FIVE – Tu Youyou – Chemistry and Medicine

Image result for tu youyou

Fevers were traditionally treated in China with sweet wormwood. After studying traditional herbal medicines, Youyou Tu extracted artemisinin, an organic chemical which inhibits the malaria parasite. Artemisinin derivatives have helped save and improve the lives of millions of people.

She received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015 for her work on developing a unique Malaria therapy. She is currently the Chief Scientist at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Learn more here: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2015/tu/facts/

SIX – Hedy Lamarr – Electrical Engineering

Originally from Vienna, Austria, Hedy Lamarr was encouraged by her father to ‘look at the world with open eyes’. Like any budding engineer, she would take things apart and put them back together as a young child to understand how they worked.

Although she was brilliant, her beauty lead her to become a famous Hollywood actress, though she kept working on her own inventions. Most of her inventions were utilized in World War II, including a new communication system that guided torpedoes. This system eventually led to WiFi and other wireless systems like GPS and Bluetooth.

Learn more at: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/hedy-lamarr

SEVEN – Maryam Mirzakhani – Mathematics

Image result for maryam mirzakhani

Dr. Mirzakhani was the first woman (and only woman to date) as well as the first Iranian to win the Fields Medal (2014), in which she was recognized for her work describing curved surfaces.

Though her work was theoretical, it could have lasting impacts in understanding how the universe began. Although she achieved the highest honor in mathematics, Dr. Mirzakhani described herself as a ‘slow’ mathematician. She once said that “you have to spend some energy and effort to see the beauty of math”. To work out problems she would doodle with equations added along the outskirts of a page. Her daughter even described her work as ‘painting’.

Learn more at: http://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Mirzakhani.html

EIGHT – Alice Hamilton – Medicine

Image result for alice hamilton

Born in 1869 to a wealthy family in Indiana, Alice became interested in science and medicine as a way to useful to the world. She trained in Michigan to become a physician but became fascinated with pathology.

While working in Chicago, Alice determined poor working conditions were a significant factor in the high rates of tuberculosis in poor immigrants. She then went on to oversee a multiple studies and surveys on occupational diseases that identified the dangers of lead, carbon monoxide, radium, and other substances. Three months after her death, U.S. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to protect workers.

Learn more at: https://www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/alice-hamilton

NINE – Mary Anning – Paleontology

Image result for mary anning

Born and raised in England in the Lyme Regis region, now known as Jurassic Coast. Her father was an amateur fossil collector and introduced Mary to the pastime. When she was 12, she helped unearth the first ichthyosaur, a marine reptile. After the death of her father she would sell her findings to help support her family. Oftentimes she sold her discoveries to paleontologists and scientists of the time though they rarely if ever recognized her for her work. Mary’s discoveries of rare and bizarre fossils became evidence for extinction and revolutionized the field of paleontology and how we understand evolution.

Learn more at: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/mary-anning-unsung-hero.html

TEN – Rita Levi-Montalicini – Neurobiology

Image result for rita levi montalcini

Born in northern Italy to a Sephardic Jewish family,
her father was an electrical engineer and
mathematician and her mother was a painter.
The traditional views of her father almost kept
Levi-Montalcini from attending college, but he
eventually supported her as she went to school
to become a doctor.

Due to Mussolini’s ‘Manifesto of Race’, which barred Jewish people from academic and professional careers, she lost her position as a laboratory assistant at the University of Turin. In response, Levi-Montalcini set up a laboratory in her bedroom to study the nerve growth in chicken embryos. This laboratory moved with her as she fled with her family to Florence to survive the Holocaust. In 1946, she became a research fellow at Washington University in St. Louis where she worked for 30 more years. During her time there, she isolated the nerve growth factor (NGF), for which she later received a Nobel Prize with Stanley Cohen.

Learn more at: https://www.pnas.org/content/110/13/4862


Author: sbugwise

We are the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering group at Stony Brook University and we are dedicated to supporting women in STEM fields.

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