Women in Chemistry

Famous Female Chemists and Chemical Engineers

Marie Curie may be the most famous woman in chemistry, but she isn't the only one.
Marie Curie may be the most famous woman in chemistry, but she isn't the only one. The Granger Collection, New York

Women have made many important contributions to the fields of chemistry and chemical engineering. Here's a list of female scientists and a summary of the research or inventions that made them famous.

Jacqueline Barton - (USA, born 1952) Jacqueline Barton probes DNA with electrons. She uses custom-made molecules to locate genes and study their arrangement. She has shown that some damaged DNA molecules do not conduct electricity.

Ruth Benerito - (USA, born 1916) Ruth Benerito invented wash-and-wear cotton fabric. Chemical treatment of the cotton surface not only reduced wrinkles, but could be used to make it flame resistant and stain resistant.

Ruth Erica Benesch - (1925-2000) Ruth Benesch and her husband Reinhold made a discovery that helped explain how hemoglobin releases oxygen in the body. They learned that carbon dioxide functions as an indicator molecule, causing hemoglobin to release oxygen where carbon dioxide concentrations are high.

Joan Berkowitz - (USA, born 1931) Joan Berkowitz is a chemist and environmental consultant. She uses her command of chemistry to help solve problems with pollution and industrial waste.

Carolyn Bertozzi - (USA, born 1966) Carolyn Bertozzi has helped design artificial bones that are less likely to cause reactions or lead to rejection than their predecessors. She has helped create contact lenses that are better-tolerated by the cornea of the eye.

Hazel Bishop - (USA, 1906–1998) Hazel Bishop is the inventor of smear-proof lipstick. In 1971, Hazel Bishop became the first female member of the Chemists’ Club in New York.

Corale Brierley

Stephanie Burns

Mary Letitia Caldwell

Emma Perry Carr - (USA, 1880–1972) Emma Carr helped to make Mount Holyoke, a women's college, into a chemistry research center.

She offered undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct their own original resarch.

Uma Chowdhry

Pamela Clark

Mildred Cohn

Gerty Theresa Cori

Shirley O. Corriher

Erika Cremer

Marie Curie - Marie Curie pioneered radioactivity research. She was the first two-time Nobel laureate and the only person to win the award in two different sciences (Linus Pauling won Chemistry and Peace). She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Marie Curie was the first female professor at the Sorbonne.

Iréne Joliot-Curie - Iréne Joliot-Curie was awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for synthesis of new radioactive elements. The prize was shared jointly with her husband Jean Frédéric Joliot.

Marie Daly - (USA, 1921–2003) In 1947, Marie Daly became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. The majority of her career was spent as a college professor. In addition to her research, she developed programs to attract and aid minority students in medical and graduate school.

Kathryn Hach Darrow

Cecile Hoover Edwards

Gertrude Belle Elion

Gladys L. A. Emerson

Mary Fieser

Edith Flanigen - (USA, born 1929) In the 1960s, Edith Flanigen invented a process for making synthetic emeralds. In addition to their use for making beautiful jewelry, the perfect emeralds made it possible to make powerful microwave lasers.

In 1992, Flanigen received the first Perkin Medal ever awarded to a woman, for her work synthesizing zeolites.

Linda K. Ford

Rosalind Franklin - (Great Britain, 1920–1958) Rosalind Franklin used x-ray crystallography to see the structure of DNA. Watson and Crick used her data to propose the double-stranded helical structure of the DNA molecule. The Nobel Prize could only be awarded to living persons, so she could not be included when Watson and Crick were formally recognized with the 1962 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology. She also used x-ray crystallography to study the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus.

Helen M. Free

Dianne D. Gates-Anderson

Mary Lowe Good

Barbara Grant

Alice Hamilton - (USA, 1869–1970) Alice Hamilton was a chemist and physician who directed the first governmental commission to investigate industrial hazards in the workplace, such as exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Because of her work, laws were passed to protect employees from occupational hazards. In 1919 she became the first female faculty member of Harvard Medical School.

Anna Harrison

Gladys Hobby

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin - Dorothy Crowfoot-Hodgkin (Great Britain) was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for using x-rays to determine the structure of biologically important molecules.

Darleane Hoffman

M. Katharine Holloway - (USA, born 1957) M. Katharine Holloway and Chen Zhao are two of the chemists who developed protease inhibitors to inactivate the HIV virus, greatly extending the lives of AIDS patients.

Linda L. Huff

Allene Rosalind Jeanes

Mae Jemison - (USA, born 1956) Mae Jemison is a retired medical doctor and American astronaut. In 1992, she became the first black woman in space. She holds a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford and a degree in medicine from Cornell. She remains very active in science and technology.

Fran Keeth

Laura Kiessling

Reatha Clark King

Judith Klinman

Stephanie Kwolek

Marie-Anne Lavoisier - (France, circa 1780) Lavoisier's wife was his colleague. She translated documents from English for him and prepared sketches and engravings of laboratory instruments. She hosted parties at which prominent scientists could discuss chemistry and other scientific ideas.

Rachel Lloyd

Shannon Lucid - (USA, born 1943) Shannon Lucid as an American biochemist and US astronaut. For a while, she held the American record for the most time in space. She studies the effects of space on human health, often using her own body as a test subject.

Mary Lyon - (USA, 1797–1849) Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, one of the first women's colleges. At the time, most colleges taught chemistry as a lecture-only class. Lyon made lab exercises and experiments an integral part of undergraduate chemistry education. Her method became popular. Most modern chemistry classes include a lab component.

Lena Qiying Ma

Jane Marcet

The list of famous women in chemistry is continued...

Chemistry Encyclopedia

Continued from the first page of Women in Chemistry, here are more female scientists, inventors, and engineers who have comtributed to the field of chemistry.

Lise Meitner - Lise Meitner (November 17, 1878 – October 27, 1968) was an Austrian/Swedish physicist who studied radioactivity and nuclear physics. She was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, for which Otto Hahn received a Nobel Prize.

Maud Menten

Marie Meurdrac

Helen Vaughn Michel

Amalie Emmy Noether - (born in Germany, 1882-1935) Emmy Noether was a mathematician, not a chemist, but her mathematical description of the conservations laws for energy, angular momentum, and linear momentum has been invaluable in spectroscopy and other branches of chemistry. She is responsible for Noether's theorem in theoretical physics, the Lasker–Noether theorem in commutative algebra, the concept of Noetherian rings, and was co-founder of the theory of central simple algebras.

Ida Tacke Noddack

Mary Engle Pennington

Elsa Reichmanis

Ellen Swallow Richards

Jane S. Richardson - (USA, born 1941) Jane Richardson, a biochemistry professor at Duke University, is best-known for her hand-drawn and computer-generated portaits of proteins. The graphics help scientists understand how proteins are made and how they function.

Janet Rideout

Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau

Florence Seibert

Melissa Sherman

Maxine Singer - (USA, born 1931) Maxine Singer specializes in recombinant DNA technology. She studies how disease-causing genes 'jump' within DNA. She helped formulate the NIH's ethical guidelines for genetic engineering.

Barbara Sitzman

Susan Solomon

Kathleen Taylor

Susan S. Taylor

Martha Jane Bergin Thomas

Margaret E. M. Tolbert

Rosalyn Yalow

Chen Zhao - (born 1956) M. Katharine Holloway and Chen Zhao are two of the chemists who developed protease inhibitors to inactivate the HIV virus, greatly extending the lives of AIDS patients.

Chemistry Encyclopedia