The legacy of women scientists and their impact on human history

Related Articles

Women do not enjoy the same opportunities as men to develop a scientific profession and to progress in it, yet they have always been in all sciences and at all levels. We do not see them because history has taken care of hiding them, living in the shadow of their colleagues, relegated by the intellectual elites of each era.

In the world of science and technology, especially in high-level scientific professions, the persistence and seriousness of the imbalance between men and women makes it necessary to take corrective measures.

From our trench and hoping to show the importance of women in science, we share with you their achievements, so that together we can make them take the place they deserve in history.

Table of Contents

Marie Curie – Physics and chemistry

Marie Curie was a Polish-French physicist and chemist known for her pioneering work in the field of radioactivity. In 1903, she became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics, along with her husband Pierre Curie and physicist Henri Becquerel, for their work on the discovery of radioactivity. In 1911, Marie Curie received her second Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the radioactive elements polonium and radium, and her work on the purification of radioisotopes.

In addition to her contributions to science, Marie Curie was also an advocate for education and women’s rights. She was the first woman to teach at the University of Paris and founded the Curie Institute, which became an important center for scientific research. She also served as a nurse in World War I and worked to provide mobile X-ray units to military hospitals.

Marie Curie is an icon in the history of science and has inspired generations of women and men to follow in her footsteps in scientific research. Her legacy continues today, both in scientific research and in work to promote gender equality and education.

Rosalind Franklin – Biology:

She was one of the scientists whose work has not received the recognition it deserves: she took photographs proving that DNA is a double helix. However, four years after Franklin’s death from ovarian cancer, James Watson, Francis Crick and Morris Wilkins won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962 for discovering the structure of nucleic acid molecules, thanks to Franklin’s work. His research also laid the foundation for understanding RNA, carbon, graphite and viruses.

Ada Lovelace – Computing:

She is known as the first female programmer in history. He wrote the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, and developed the idea of universal computation.

Grace Hopper – Computing:

She was a pioneer in computer programming and in the development of programming languages. She was the creator of the first compiler, a program that translates source code into machine language.

Katherine Johnson – Mathematics:

She was a mathematician and computer scientist who worked for NASA in the 1960s. He calculated flight paths for several projects, including the Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

Chien-Shiung Wu – Physics:

She was an experimental physicist who made important contributions to nuclear physics. He performed experiments that confirmed the theory of beta decay and showed that the law of conservation of parity is not fulfilled in beta decay.

Rachel Carson – Biology and the environment:

She was a marine biologist and writer who pioneered research and outreach on the negative effects of pesticides on the environment. His book “Silent Spring” is considered a milestone in the history of the environmental movement.

Barbara McClintock – Biology:

She was a geneticist who made important discoveries in the structure and function of chromosomes. He discovered transposable genetic elements, which are DNA fragments that can move within the genome.

Mary Leakey – Paleontology:

She was a paleontologist who made important discoveries in the field of human evolution. He discovered fossil remains of early hominids in Tanzania, including the famous “Laetoli Man”.

Mae Jemison – Medicine and astronaut:

She was the first black woman to go into space. Prior to becoming an astronaut, she worked as a Peace Corps physician, and has continued to make important contributions to science education and the promotion of diversity in science.

Mary Anning

Mary Anning was an English paleontologist and fossil dealer. Among his most famous discoveries are the first skeletons of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, the first pterosaurs outside Germany and the fossils of several fishes. Anning also showed that the coenzymes called bezoar stones are fecal fossils. Their work is the key to understanding prehistoric life and demonstrating that extinction occurred. Despite her scientific achievements, she was not allowed to publish because she was a woman.

Lise Meitner – Physics:

She was an Austrian physicist and discoverer of nuclear fission. His laboratory partner, Otto Hahn, obtained this achievement in 1944 and is a Nobel Prize winner. This is one of the most obvious examples found by women, but was ignored by the committee. Awards: Since 1901, women have won only 3% of the Nobel Prize in Science.

Vera Rubin

In 1948, he received a bachelor’s degree in astronomy from Vassar College. Later, she wanted to attend Princeton University, but the university did not allow women to participate in astronomical research programs.

He observed more than fifty spirals and found that they all rotate at the same speed. His discovery, along with Fritz Zwicky’s theory, remains the strongest evidence for the existence of dark matter.

Jocelyn Bell

Her discovery won a Nobel Prize in 1974 but went to her thesis supervisor, Antony Hewish when Bell was a graduate student at Cambridge University. After hundreds of observations, Bell discovered blinking lights like a lighthouse, which led to the discovery of pulsars.

Valentina Tereshkova

She was the first woman to fly in outer space. On June 16, 1963, at 10:30 a.m., the Vostok-6 spacecraft entered Earth orbit. He circled the Earth 48 times for 71 hours, longer than planned because of an error in the trajectory of his spacecraft.

Alice Ball – chemist and pharmacologist

(1892-1916) American known for her work in creating an effective way to treat leprosy in the 1910s. Ball developed a treatment using chaulmoogra oil to combat the disease, which led to a significant decrease in the death rate from leprosy.

Caroline Herschel – astronomer

(1750-1848) British astronomer known for her work in the discovery and cataloging of stars and nebulae. Herschel was the first woman to receive a salary for scientific work, and she was also the first woman to be a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin – crystallographer

(1910-1994) was a British crystallographer who used X-ray diffraction to determine the structure of important biological molecules, including penicillin and vitamin B12. His work paved the way for the development of new drugs and treatments.

Emmy Noether – mathematician

(1882-1935) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to theoretical physics and algebraic geometry. Noether formulated the theorem that bears his name, which establishes a fundamental relationship between conservation laws and symmetry in physics.

Esther Lederberg – microbiologist

(1922-2006) was an American microbiologist who made important contributions to bacterial genetics and antibiotic resistance. Lederberg developed techniques for the study of bacteria and viruses, and also discovered the process of bacterial conjugation, in which bacteria transfer genetic material from one cell to another.

Gertrude Elion – biochemist and pharmacologist

(1918-1999) was an American biochemist and pharmacologist known for her work in the development of new drugs, including the first effective treatment for leukemia. Elion also developed drugs to treat malaria, herpes and AIDS.

Gerty Cori – biochemist and physiologist

Gerty Cori was a Czech-American biochemist and physiologist who made important contributions to the understanding of carbohydrate metabolism. Together with her husband, Carl Cori, she discovered the Cori cycle, which explains how muscles convert glucose to lactate and vice versa. For her contributions to biochemistry, Gerty Cori became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947.

Hedy Lamarr – actress and inventor

Hedy Lamarr, in addition to being a famous actress, was also an Austrian-born American inventor. In collaboration with composer George Antheil, Lamarr patented a secret communications system called “frequency hopping,” which was used to guide torpedoes during World War II. This invention was also used in modern technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Henrietta Leavitt – astronomer

Henrietta Leavitt was an American astronomer who discovered the relationship between the luminosity and period variation of Cepheid stars. This relationship allowed astronomers to calculate distances to galaxies with unprecedented accuracy, leading to an understanding of the scale of the universe and the structure of galaxies. Although he did not receive the recognition in his lifetime that he deserved, his work became the foundation of modern astrophysics research.

Irene Joliot-Curie – nuclear chemistry

Irene Joliot-Curie was a French nuclear chemist who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935, along with her husband, Frederic Joliot-Curie, for their discovery of artificial radioactivity. This discovery enabled the creation of new radioactive elements and the production of radioactive isotopes for use in medicine, research and nuclear energy.

Jane Goodall – primatologist

Jane Goodall is a British primatologist who is famous for her decades-long study of chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. Goodall observed complex behaviors in chimpanzees, such as tool making and tool use, and demonstrated that chimpanzees have individual personalities and develop complex social relationships. His work in wildlife conservation and animal rights protection has had a significant impact on public awareness.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell – astrophysics

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a British astrophysicist who discovered the first pulsar, a highly magnetic neutron star that emits regular pulses of radiation. Although her supervisor, Antony Hewish, received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery, Bell Burnell has been recognized as a pioneer in radio astronomy and has been honored with numerous awards and recognitions for her work.

Lise Meitner – nuclear physics

Lise Meitner was an Austrian-Swedish physicist who contributed to the discovery of nuclear fission. In 1938, working in Berlin, Meitner and his nephew Otto Frisch demonstrated that splitting the nucleus of the uranium atom released a large amount of energy, which led to the development of nuclear energy. Although she was not recognized at the time, her work was fundamental to the understanding of nuclear physics and nuclear energy.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer – nuclear physics

Maria Goeppert-Mayer was a German-American nuclear physicist who, together with J. Hans D. Jensen, developed the layered nuclear model in 1949. This model describes how the protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus are arranged in layers and how their distribution determines the stability and nuclear properties of atoms. For her work in nuclear physics, Goeppert-Mayer received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963, becoming the second woman to win this prize after Marie Curie.

Maria Mitchell – astronomer

Maria Mitchell was an American astronomer who discovered a comet in 1847, making her the first woman astronomer to make a significant astronomical discovery. Mitchell also worked as a professor of astronomy at Vassar College, where she was the first woman to be appointed full professor of science at a U.S. university. Mitchell was an advocate for women’s right to education and gender equality in science, and her work opened up opportunities for women in astronomy and other scientific fields.

Mary Cartwright – mathematician

Mary Cartwright was a British mathematician who made important contributions to dynamical systems theory and number theory. In 1945, together with John Littlewood, he proved the prime number density theorem, which became one of the most important results in number theory. He also developed the theory of dynamical systems and his work had applications in fields such as physics and engineering.

Mary Somerville – mathematician and astronomer

Mary Somerville was a British mathematician and astronomer who contributed significantly to research in mathematics and astronomy in the 19th century. His work “On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences” became an important text in the teaching of physics and astronomy in the Victorian era. She was also the first woman to receive a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society in 1835.

Mildred Dresselhaus – materials physics

Mildred Dresselhaus was an American materials physicist known as the “Queen of Carbon” because of her work in characterizing the properties of carbon materials. His research ranged from carbon nanotubes to graphene, and his contributions in understanding the structure and properties of these materials had a major impact on nanotechnology and electronics.

Nancy Grace Roman – astronomer

Nancy Grace Roman was an American astronomer known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her work in the design and development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Roman was the first female executive at NASA, and her leadership and experience in planning and directing space missions contributed to today’s understanding of the universe. She was also an advocate for the inclusion of women in science and technology.

Sally Ride – astronaut and physicist

Sally Ride was the first American woman to travel into space in 1983. She was also a physicist and worked on the development of cosmic ray detection systems for NASA. After her career at NASA, Ride worked as a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, and founded a nonprofit organization focused on encouraging girls’ interest in science and technology.

Sandra Faber – astronomer

Sandra Faber is an American astronomer known for her work on galaxy formation and evolution. Faber was one of the leaders in the design and construction of the Keck Telescope, one of the largest telescopes in the world. He has also worked on major projects such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Shirley Ann Jackson – physicist and university president

Shirley Ann Jackson is an American physicist who became the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in physics at MIT in 1973. Jackson has made important contributions to theoretical physics, including the development of theories on superconductivity and the properties of liquids. Jackson has also served as president of Rensselaer University, and has worked on public policy related to science and technology.

Sophie Germain – mathematician

Sophie Germain was a French mathematician who contributed to number theory and the theory of differential equations. Germain was the first woman to receive recognition from the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1808, and her work has been fundamental to the development of number theory and mathematical physics.

Stephanie Kwolek – chemist and inventor

Stephanie Kwolek was an American chemist known for her invention of Kevlar, a strong, lightweight synthetic material used in bulletproof vests, tires, and other industrial products. Kwolek worked for DuPont for more than 40 years and received numerous awards for his work, including the National Technology and Innovation Award in 1996.

Sue Hendrickson – paleontologist and explorer

Sue Hendrickson is an American paleontologist and explorer known for her discovery of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in South Dakota in 1990. He has also made important discoveries in the field of marine paleontology, including the identification of a new genus and species of giant shark called Megalodon.

Suzanne Corkin – neuroscientist

Suzanne Corkin was an American neuroscientist who worked on the study of the brain and memory at MIT University. Corkin was known for her work with a patient known as HM, who lost the ability to create new memories after brain surgery in the 1950s. The HM study provided important information about how memory works and how the brain stores and retrieves information.

Sylvia Earle – oceanographer

Sylvia Earle is an American oceanographer known for her work in ocean conservation and underwater exploration. Earle was the first woman to direct the U.S. Marine Program, and has logged more than 7,000 hours of diving in her career. She is also the founder of Mission Blue, a non-profit organization that focuses on the protection of the oceans and marine life.

Tu Youyou – pharmacist and drug discoverer

Tu Youyou is a Chinese pharmaceutical company known for its discovery of the drug artemisinin, used in the treatment of malaria. In the 1960s, Tu took it upon himself to search for a cure for malaria, a disease that affected millions of people in China at the time. His research and discovery of artemisinin had a major impact on global public health.

Virginia Apgar – anesthesiologist and creator of the Apgar test

Virginia Apgar was an American anesthesiologist who created the Apgar test, used worldwide to assess the health status of newborns. The Apgar test measures five indicators, such as heart rate and respiration, to determine if a newborn needs urgent medical attention. Apgar was also an advocate for medical education and worked to improve maternal and child health care.

Wangari Maathai – environmentalist and activist

Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmentalist and activist who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work promoting environmental conservation and women’s rights. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, which has planted millions of trees in Kenya and other African countries to combat deforestation and soil erosion.

Wilma Rudolph – athlete and physical therapist

Wilma Rudolph was an American athlete and physical therapist who became the first African-American woman to win three Olympic gold medals in track and field in 1960. Rudolph also worked as a physical therapist and has been an inspiration to athletes and women around the world.

Winifred Edgerton – physicist and high-speed photography pioneer

Winifred Edgerton was a physicist and pioneer in high-speed photography. She worked with her husband Harold Edgerton, also a physicist, on the creation of the stroboscope camera, a device used to capture high-speed images. His work had applications in areas such as medicine, physics and engineering.

Yvonne Brill – aerospace engineer

Yvonne Brill was an American aerospace engineer known for her contributions to the design of satellite propulsion systems. Brill was the first woman to be hired as an engineer at RCA Aerospace Company in 1945, and later worked for other aerospace companies such as Space Technology Laboratories and NASA.

Zora Neale Hurston – anthropologist and author

Zora Neale Hurston was an American anthropologist and writer who conducted important studies on African American culture in the 20th century. Hurston is known for her literary works, including the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, and for her work in collecting oral histories and traditions of African-American culture.

Inge Lehmann – seismologist and geophysicist

Inge Lehmann was a Danish seismologist and geophysicist known for her discovery that the Earth’s core is composed of two parts, one solid and one liquid. Lehmann used earthquake data to show that seismic waves were reflected at the boundary between the liquid outer core and the solid inner core. His discovery had a major impact on the understanding of the structure and dynamics of the Earth.

Margaret Burbidge – astrophysicist

Margaret Burbidge is a British astrophysicist known for her work on the evolution and composition of stars and galaxies. Burbidge was one of the first women to work at Mount Wilson Observatory, and her research ranged from nucleosynthesis to star and galaxy formation.

Mildred Cohn – biophysics

Mildred Cohn was an American biophysicist known for her research on metabolism and bioenergetics. Cohn pioneered the use of nuclear magnetic resonance to study biochemical processes, and her work had a major impact on the understanding of protein structure and function.

Mildred Trotter – anatomist

Mildred Trotter was an American anatomist and anthropologist known for her work in the study of human bones. Trotter developed a technique for estimating the height and age of individuals from bone measurements, which had applications in areas such as forensic anthropology and medicine.

Ruth Patrick – aquatic ecologist

Ruth Patrick was an American aquatic ecologist known for her pioneering work in the ecology of aquatic systems and her innovative approach to classifying aquatic ecosystems based on the communities of organisms living in them. His work was instrumental in understanding the health and quality of water in aquatic ecosystems, and his methodology for assessing the health of rivers and streams has been adopted worldwide. Patrick was also an advocate for environmental conservation and worked to increase public awareness of the importance of protecting aquatic resources. She was the first woman to receive the U.S. National Medal of Science in the field of environmental sciences in 1996.

On reflection, many women have received historical recognition because these were times of gender revolution. You can read more about this in the article here:

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Español

More on this topic


Popular stories


Subscribe to our newsletter! Get breaking news and learn something new every day. Tutorials, Fun Facts, Images, News, Compilations, and so much more!