10 Female Scientists You Should Know
The fact is, women are severely underrepresented in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The following women have defied the odds and restrictions placed on them because of their gender and contributed significantly to their respective fields. Encourage your daughter to pursue a career in one of these fields by sharing the stories of these women who have shaped the scientific landscape.
Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
Born in Hanover, Germany, Caroline Herschel became interested in the sciences when she went to live with her older brother, Sir William Herschel, in Bath, England. He had switched careers from music to astronomy, and she followed in her brother's footsteps and studied astronomy as well. Caroline was the first woman to discover a comet, the first to have her work published by the Royal Society and the first British woman to get paid for her scientific work. She lived to age 97, and received many honors, including a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society.
Lise Meitner (1878-1968)
Lise Meitner was an Austrian Jew born in 1878, which presented many obstacles to her in her pursuit of an education and knowledge. She collaborated with Otto Hahn on the study of radioactive elements in Berlin, but eventually had to flee Nazi Germany in 1938. They continued to collaborate, and together discovered nuclear fission of uranium, which eventually led to the atomic bomb. Hahn won the Nobel Prize in 1944, but Meitner was sadly overlooked by the Nobel committee. She continued her atomic research in Stockholm into her 80s.
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)
Barbara McClintock is famous for her study of maize cytogenetics, determining that genes could move within and between chromosomes. At the time, her findings didn't fit in with the thinking around genetics at the time, and were ignored until the 1970s and 1980s when improved techniques confirmed her theory. She was awarded a Lasker Prize in 1981 and Nobel Prize in 1983.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
Rosalind Franklin’s life was cut short by ovarian cancer when she was just 37 years old, but she contributed immensely to science before her untimely death. Franklin was a chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made many contributions to the understanding of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite. Her work is what James Watson and Francis Crick relied on in their discovery of the structure of DNA. While she did not win a Nobel Prize herself, her work helped other scientists go on to receive the honor.
Photo Credit: Jewish Chronicle Archive/Heritage-Images
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
Ada Lovelace was the daughter of poet George Lord Byron, and eventually became Countess of Lovelace, hence her surname. She was a mathematician and writer who worked on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. She also believed that computers could go beyond just calculating numbers, whereas many others, including Babbage, focused only on this capability. Sadly, like Rosalind Franklin, her life was cut short when she died of uterine cancer at the age of 36.
Irene Joliot-Curie (1897-1956)
Irene Joliot-Curie’s name might sound familiar, and that’s because she’s the elder daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie. Irene, like her parents, studied radioactivity. She and her husband, Frederic, collaborated on research on the structure of the atom, and discovered artificial radioactivity by bombarding aluminum, boron and magnesium with alpha particles to produce isotopes of nitrogen, phosphorus, silicon and aluminum. This earned them the Nobel Prize in chemistry, which made Marie and Irene the first parent-child couple to have independently won Nobels.
Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994)
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was the daughter of British archaeologists, which meant she grew up in a household that valued education. She was only one of two girls in her school allowed to study chemistry with the boys. Dorothy studied X-ray crystallography at Cambridge, and moved in 1934 to Oxford, where she spent most of her working life teaching chemistry and using X-ray crystallography to study interesting biological molecules. Her work earned her a Nobel Prize in 1964, and in 2010, she was the only woman to be featured on stamps celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society.
Photo Credit: Copyright © The Nobel Foundation
Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (1906-1992)
An American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral, Grace Brewster Murray Hopper invented the first complier for a computer programming language. She also helped popularize the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-leval programming languages. Not only was she an incredible scientist, she was also the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the United States Navy at the time of her retirement, a position she was only able to keep by special approval of Congress. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the Department of Defense. Due to her many honors and her naval rank, she gained the nickname "Amazing Grace."
Mae Jemison (born 1956)
Aphysician and NASA astronaut, Mae Jemison is most notably known as the first African-American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit in 1992 on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. She also served in the Peace Corp, appeared on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," is a dancer and holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters and the humanities. She also founded a company that researches the application of technology to daily life.
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000)
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, known professionally as Hedy Lamar, is probably best known as an Austrian and American film actress, but she was also the inventor of a radio guidance technology, of which the principles are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth technology.
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