International Women’s Day: Notable Female Scientists

Happy International Women’s Day folks! To commemorate tomorrow, I thought it would be a great idea to point out notable female scientists who have made significant contributions to the field of science. While this list is far from complete, it helps to show that we need more women in the STEM field to bring in the best, and brightest, to make the discoveries today and help solve the challenges of tomorrow.

Dr. Marie Curie

Marie Curie

Dr. Marie Curie was a Polish scientist who focused on Chemistry and Physics. Her work focused on the theory of radioactivity, which she discovered, and isolating radioactive isotopes. She was able to discover two elements, radium and polonium, through her experiments. Marie was the first female to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics. She helped to found the Curie Institute, which remains in operation to this day.

Dr. Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin.jpg

Rosalind Franklin was an English chemist who focused on the technique of X-ray Crystallography, which is used to study the structure of proteins, and other macromolecules. She applied this technique to make discoveries in RNA, Viruses, Coal, and graphite. Her most famous contribution was her discovery of the DNA double helix via her x-ray crystallography studies. Due to her breakthrough, scientists, Maurice Wilkins, James Watson, and Francis Crick, were able to build a model of the DNA double helix. Unfortunately, she was never awarded the Nobel Prize for her part in deciphering the DNA double-helix model.

Dr. Lise Meitner


Dr. Lise Meitner was an Austrian Physicist who focused on radioactivity, and nuclear physics. She made significant contributions to the field of nuclear physics with the discovery of nuclear fission in uranium. Unfortunately, her collaborator, Dr. Otto Hahn, was the only one awarded for the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery. It was because of her work that the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the urging of Albert Einstein,  created the Advisory Committee on Uranium to study the application of applying nuclear fission to building an atomic bomb. While Lise did not play a part in the Manhattan Project, her research was crucial to building the Manhattan Project.

Dr. Irene Curie-Joliot


Dr. Irene Curie-Joliot was a French Scientist who was also the daughter of the famous scientist, Marie Curie. Her work was focused towards artificial radioactivity and the study of non-natural materials that could be made radioactive. Her work led to her receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson
Source: Nasa.Gov

Katherine Johnson is an American Mathematician who focused on celestial navigation for NASA. She played a vital role in calculating the mathematical trajectories for numerous manned space flights, including Alan Shepard and John Glenn, and also the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Her career at NASA was captured in the motion picture, Hidden Figures, where she, along with other notable African-American scientists, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, broke through the glass ceiling at NASA to lead rewarding careers in aerospace, computer programming, and engineering. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Dr. Barbara McClintock

Barbara McClintock.jpg

Dr. Barbara McClintock was an American cytogeneticist who studied maize cytogenetics. She made significant contributions to the field of genetics by deducing the theory of genetic recombination in maize chromosomes. In addition, she also made significant contributions to the field of genetics with her work in transposition. In 1983, her work helped her to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Dr. Dorothy Hodgkin

Source: Royal Society of Chemistry

Dr. Dorothy Hodgkin was an English Chemist who developed the technique of Protein Crystallography. Dr. Hodgkin was able to determine the structure of penicillin, and B12, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She also made significant contributions to advance the application of X-ray crystallography, for which researchers can deduce the structure of macromolecules.

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien Shieng-Wu
Source: The Atomic Heritage Foundation

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was an Chinese-American experimental physicist who was a part of the Manhattan Project. Her work centered on nuclear physics and separating uranium isotopes, U-235 and U-238, into different components via gaseous diffusion. She also made notable contributions in the field of science by contradicting the Law of Conservation Parity with her Wu Experiment. In addition, Dr. Wu was able to confirm Richard Feynman, and Murray Gell-Mann, theory of Conserved Vector Current Hypothesis. Finally, Dr. Wu was the recipient of the Wolf Prize in Physics.

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Source: MIT Technology Review

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is an American Physicist and was considered the first African-American to receive her Doctorate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has worked in national labs such as the FERMI Lab, CERN, and at Stanford’s Linear Accelerator Center. She was also appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), by President Bill Clinton, and established the International Nuclear Regulatory Association during her tenure at the NRC. Jackson was also the recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Vannevar Bush Award.

If you are interested to learn more about the initiatives that encourage women to enter the STEM field, I suggest checking out articles by College Raptor, Pathways to Science, and organizations like Scientista.

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