15 Pioneering Female Scientists You Need To Know About

8 minute read

Women have been making important contributions and discoveries in science for centuries, but they have not always gotten the recognition that they deserve.

Here are just 15 historic female scientists that have unlocked a number of secrets in the world of science and how their unique discoveries helped changed the world.

1. Maria Merian (1645-1717)

This woman scientist was born in Germany. She was one of the first to study the lifecycle of the butterfly. Many people though that these creatures were spontaneously created.

She studied the way that butterflies lived and was even able to discover new insets. She was able to classify these species and her classifications are still used today.

Maria Merian

2. Mary Anning (1799-1847)

Mary was a fossil hunter that looked for fossils since she was a young girl. She discovered the first plesiosaur skeletons and was a geographer. She was credited for setting the stage for the theory of Charles Darwin and his theory on evolution.

Mary Anning

3. Maria Sklodowska Curie (1867-1834)

Maria was the first woman in history to be a recipient of the Nobile Prize. She was the only person to win this prize in two different disciplines.

She won one for her work in chemistry and another for her work in physics. Along with her husband the couple discovered radioactivity.

She also discovered the elements polonium and radium.

Marie Curie

4. Henrietta Leavitt (1868-1921)

Henrietta was a member of a group of female astronomers that were employed y Harvard to analyze their data relating to their discoveries. She was able to use this information to give classification to over 2,400 stars.

She also discovered that there was a relationship between the period of luminosity and the type of star . This allowed scientists to study starts in remote galaxies.

Henrietta Leavitt

5. Lise Meitner (1878- 1968)

Lise worked in nuclear physics. She was able to show that the nucleus of uranium was able to be broken apart and discovered that nuclear fission was happening.

Her fellow researcher got the Nobel Prize for this and Lise's work was overlooked. She was later given some recognition and got to name the element 109 meitneriun.

Lise Meitner

6. Gerty Cori (1896-1957)

Gerty worked with her husband and they discovered the Cori cycle. This cycle shows how the human body is able to use chemical reaction to turn carbohydrates into muscle tissue and then into lactic acid.

They also showed that it is then remetabolized. Gerty also studied glycogen storage disease and showed how enzymes were able to turn into diseases.

She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for the study of medicine.

Gerty Cori

7. Helen Taussig (1889-1986)

Helen got a medical degree in 1927 from John Hopkins. She was one of the first women to study cardiology and discovered baby blue syndrome which is a birth defect of the heart. This defect had a high mortality rate.

Along with her colleagues it was discovered how to save these babies. Since this discovery, countless babies' lives have been saved.

Helen Taussig

8. Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)

Barbara studies genetics and the scientific code on how chromosomes change their position.

She also studied genetic transportation and won a Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine.

Barbara McClintock

9. Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

Rachel was a biologist and one of the first to state that pesticides were harmful to a person’s health. She even launched an environmental movement to stop the use of pesticides.

Rachel Carson

10. Rita Levi Montalcini (1909-2012)

Rita was a brave woman from the beginning. During WWII she decided to stay in Italy and studies the nerve growth factor.

She studied a protein that regulates the growth of the cells and plays a role in the development of tumors. It took 30 years before her research was noted and she won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Rita Levi Montalcini

11. Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994)

Dorothy was one of the first to study x-ray crystallography which allows for a 3D study of molecules. She confirmed the structures of penicillin and vitamin B12.

She won a Nobel Prize in chemistry. She worked with crystalline insulin and confirmed the structure of this as well.

She also worked in insulin research and spread awareness about diabetes.

Dorothy Hodgkin

12. Chien Shiung Wu (1912-1997)

This scientist got her PhD in nuclear physics. During WWII she worked on the Manhattan Project and helped with the separation of uranium metal into different isotopes.

She conducted the Wu experiment which disproved the conservation of parity.

Chien Shiung Wu

13. Gertrude B. Elion (1918- 1999)

Gertrude was a biochemist and pharmacologist. She invented the first treatment for leukemia and the first immune suppressive drug used during organ transplants.

She oversaw the development of AZT which was the first drug used to treat AIDS. She won the Nobel Prize for her work in medicine and new drug treatments.

Gertrude Elion

14. Rosalind Franklin (1920- 1958)

Rosalind took the first picture of DNA. She discovered that DNA took the shape of the double helix.

Other scientists Crick and Watson were credited with this discovery but later Rosalind’s work was publicly realized and she was given the credit she deserved.

Rosalind Franklin

15. Marie Tharp (1920-2006)

Marie was a scientific mapmaker that helped show plate tectonics. Her charts show the Mid Atlantic Ridge and show that plate tectonics really exists.

Marie Tharp

Bonus: Jane Goodall (b. 1934-)

Jane is the world-renowned expert on chimpanzees and has been studying them for the past 55 years. She is still alive and is still working to raise animal awareness.

Jane Goodall

These female scientists made lifetimes of discoveries between them, and contributed scientific knowledge to the global view of life that forever changed the world. Finally, these women are getting the credit and recognition they so deserve.

Photo / Image Credits: amightygirl.com Blog | Katherine (Thank you for your work!)