Famous Women Scientists

Notable Women in Science, Medicine, and Math

British and American polls say that few people can name even one famous woman scientist. Here are some women in the sciences including medicine and mathematics. You may recognize some of these famous women scientists; others may be new to you and worth further exploring. They're listed alphabetically over several pages, though I put Marie Curie at the top because, let's face it, that's the one woman scientist most people know. Click through to the rest of the pages so you don't miss the others.

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Marie Curie - portrait of the French scientist, pioneer in the fields of radiation, radioactivity and radiology, working in her laboratory in Sorbonne, Paris 1898.
Marie Curie, 1898. Culture Club / Getty Images

Dates: November 7, 1867 - July 4, 1934

Known for:  Marie Curie was the:
• first well-known woman scientist in the modern world
• called the "Mother of Modern Physics" -- pioneer in research into radioactivity, a word she coined
• discoverer of and first to isolate polonium and radium; she established the nature of radiation and beta rays
• first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, first person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines:  (1903) Physics and Chemistry (1911)

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Joy Adamson

Joy Adamson
Joy Adamson. Roy Dumont / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Dates: January 20, 1910 - January 3, 1980

Known for: Naturalist Joy Adamson wrote Born Free about raising a lion cub, Elsa, and releasing her back to the wild, part of her efforts in Kenya for conservation.

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Maria Agnesi
Maria Agnesi. Courtesy Wikimedia

Dates: May 16, 1718 - January 9, 1799

Known for: Maria Agnesi wrote the first mathematics book by a woman that still survives.  She was also the first woman appointed as a mathematics professor at a university.

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Agnodice

Dates: 4th century BCE 

Known for: Agnodice, who may be mythical rather than historical, was a physician and gynecologist who dressed as a man because it was illegal for women to practice medicine.

Also known as Agnodike.

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Elizabeth-Garrett-Anderson-75359120-a1.jpg
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson passes her examination to obtain an MD, Paris, 1870. Godefroy Durand/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dates: June 9, 1836 - December 17, 1917

Known for: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to successfully complete the medical qualifying exams in Great Britain and the first woman physician in Great Britain. She was also an advocate of women's suffrage and women's opportunities in higher education and became the first woman in England elected as mayor.

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Mary Anning and her fossils
Mary Anning and her fossils. Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Dates: May 21, 1799 - March 9, 1847

Known for: Self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning was a British fossil hunter and collector. At age 12 she had found, with her brother, a complete ichthyosaur skeleton, and later made other major discoveries. Louis Agassiz named two fossils for her. Because she was a woman, the Geological Society of London would not permit her to make any presentation about her work.

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Virginia Apgar
Virginia Apgar. Getty Images

Dates: June 7, 1909 - August 7, 1974

Known for: Virginia Apgar developed the Apgar Newborn Scoring System, increasing infant survival rates She was pioneer in anesthesiology including helping to raise the respect for the discipline; she warned that use of some anesthetics during childbirth negatively affected infants. Virginia Apgar also helped refocus the March of Dimes organization from polio to birth defects.

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Elizabeth Arden, about 1939
Elizabeth Arden, about 1939. Underwood Archives / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Dates: December 31, 1884 - October 18, 1966

Known for: Elizabeth Arden was the founder, owner and operator of Elizabeth Arden, Inc., a cosmetics and beauty corporation.  At the beginning of her career, she formulated the products that she then manufactured and sold.

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Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey

Dates: August 8, 1863 - September 22, 1948

Known for: A nature writer and ornithologist, Florence Bailey popularized natural history and wrote a number of books about birds and ornithology, including several popular bird guides.

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Francoise Barre-Sinoussi

Dates: July 30, 1947 -

Known for: Francoise Barre-Sinoussi helped identity HIV as the cause of AIDS. She shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 with her mentor, Luc Montagnier, for their discovery of HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus). (Harald zur Hausen also shared that prize for his role in discovering the viral cause of cervical cancer.)  

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Clara Barton
Clara Barton. SuperStock / Getty Images

Dates: December 25, 1821 - April 12, 1912

Known for: Nurse Clara Barton is famous for her Civil War service and as the founder of American Red Cross.

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Florence Bascom

 Dates: July 14, 1862 - June 18, 1945

Known for: Florence Bascom was the first woman hired by the United States Geological Survey, the second American woman to earn a Ph.D. in geology, and the second woman elected to the Geological Society of America.  Her main work was in studying the geomorphology of the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont region.  Her work with petrographic techniques is still influential today.

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Laura Maria Caterina Bassi

Dates: October 31, 1711 - February 20, 1778

Known for: Professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, Laura Bassi is most famous for her teaching and experiments in Newtonian physics. She was appointed in 1745 to a group of academics by the future Pope Benedict XIV.

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Patricia Era Bath

Dates:  November 4, 1942

Known for: pioneer in the field of community ophthalmology, a branch of public health. She founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.  She was the first African American woman physician to receive a medical-related patent, for a device improving the use of lasers to remove cataracts.  She was the first black resident in ophthalmology at New York University and the first black woman staff surgeon at UCLA Medical Center.

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Ruth Benedict

Ruth Benedict
Ruth Benedict. Bettmann / Getty Images

Dates: June 5, 1887 – September 17, 1948

Known for: Ruth Benedict was an anthropologist who taught at Columbia, following in the footsteps of her mentor, anthropology pioneer Franz Boas. She both carried on and extended his work with her own. Ruth Benedict wrote Patterns of Culture and The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. She also wrote "The Races of Mankind," a World War II pamphlet for the troops showing that racism was not grounded in scientific reality.

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Ruth Benerito

Dates: January 12, 1916 - October 5, 2013

Known for: perfecting permanent press cotton, a method of making cotton clothing wrinkle free without ironing and without treating the surface of the completed fabric.  She held many patents for processes to treat fibers so they would produce wrinkle free and durable clothing. She worked for the United States Department of Agriculture for much of her career.

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Elizabeth Blackwell, about 1850
Elizabeth Blackwell, about 1850. Museum of the City of New York/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Dates: February 3, 1821 - May 31, 1910

Known for: Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from medical school (M.D.) and a pioneer in educating women in medicine

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Elizabeth Britton

New York Botanical Garden
New York Botanical Garden. Barry Winker / Photodisc / Getty Images

Dates: January 9, 1858 - February 25, 1934

Known for: Elizabeth Britton inspired and helped organize the creation of the New York Botanical Garden.

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Harriet Brooks

Dates: July 2, 1876 - April 17, 1933

Known for: Harriet Brooks was Canada's first nuclear scientist who worked for a while with Marie Curie. She lost a position at Barnard College when she became engaged, by university policy; she later broke that engagement, worked in Europe for a while, and then left science to marry and raise a family.

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Annie Jump Cannon

Annie Jump Cannon
Annie Jump Cannon. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Dates: December 11, 1863 - April 13, 1941

Known for:The first scientific doctorate awarded by Oxford University to a woman was earned by astronomer Annie Jump Cannon. She worked on classifying and cataloging stars, discovering five novae.

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Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson. Stock Montage / Getty Images

Dates: May 27, 1907 - April 14, 1964

Known for: Rachel Carson is remembered for writing the book Silent Spring, motivating the environmentalist movement of the late 60s and early 70s.

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Emilie du Chatelet

Émilie du Châtelet, or Gabrielle-Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil du Châtelet

Dates: December 17, 1706 - September 10, 1749

Known for: Best known as the lover of Voltaire (François Marie Arouet), who encouraged her study of mathematics. She worked to explore and explain Newtonian physics, arguing that heat and light were related and against the phlogiston theory then current. She died of puerperal fever after giving birth to her fourth child.

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Cleopatra the Alchemist

Dates: first century C.E.?

Known for: Her writing documents chemical (alchemical) experiments, noted for the drawings of chemical apparatus used. She is reputed to have documented weights and measurements carefully, in writings that were destroyed with the persecution of the Alexandrian alchemists in the third century.

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Dates: December 1 or 2 (sources differ), 1083 - 1148

Known for: Anna Comnena was the first woman known to write a history; she also wrote about science, mathematics and medicine.

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Gerty T. Cori

Dates: August 15, 1896 - October 26, 1957

Known for:  1947 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology, shared with her husband.  She helped scientists understand the body's metabolism of sugars and carbohydrates, and later illnesses where such metabolism was disrupted, and the role of enzymes in that process.

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Eva Crane

Dates: June 12, 1912 - September 6, 2007

Known for: Bee scientist; she founded and served as the director of the International Bee Research Association from 1949 to 1983. She originally trained in mathematics and obtained her doctorate in nuclear physics. She became interested in studying bees after someone gave her a gift of a bee swarm as a wedding present.

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Annie Easley

Dates: April 23, 1933 - June 25, 2011

Known for: part of the team that developed software for the Centaur rocket stage.  She was a mathematician, computer scientist, and rocket scientist, one of the few African Americans in her field.

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Gertrude Bell Elion

Also known as Gertrude Belle Elion

Dates: January 23, 1918 - April 21, 1999

Known for: Gertrude Elion is known for discovering many medications, including medications for HIV/AIDS, herpes, immunity disorders, and leukemia. She and her colleague George H. Hitchings were awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1988.

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Alice Evans

Dates: January 29, 1881 - September 5, 1975

Known for: Alice Catherine Evans, working as a research bacteriologist with the Department of Agriculture, discovered that brucellosis, a disease in cows, could be transmitted to human beings, especially to those who drank raw milk. Her discovery eventually led to pasteurization of milk.  She was also the first woman to serve as president of the American Society for Microbiology.

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Lowland gorilla orphan at Dian Fossey Center, 2006
Lowland gorilla orphan at Dian Fossey Center, 2006.

Dates: January 16, 1932 - December 26, 1985

Known for: Primatologist Dian Fossey is remembered for her study of mountain gorillas and her work to preserve habitat for gorillas.

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DNA Molecule
DNA Molecule. Getty Images / Lawrence Lawry

Dates: July 25, 1920 - April 16, 1958

Known for: Rosalind Franklin had a key role (largely unacknowledged during her lifetime) in discovering the helical structure of DNA.

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Dates: April 1, 1776 - June 27, 1831

Known for: Sophie Germain's work in number theory is foundational to the applied mathematics used in construction of skyscrapers today, and her mathematical physics to the study of elasticity and acoustics.  She was also the first woman not related to a member by marriage to attend Academie des Sciences meetingsand the first woman invited to attend sessions at the Institut de France.

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    Lillian Gilbreth

    Dates: May 24, 1876 - January 2, 1972

    Known for: Lillian Gilbreth was an industrial engineer and consultant who studied efficiency. With responsibility for running a household and raising twelve children, especially after her husband's death in 1924, she established the Motion Study Institute in her home, applying her learning both to business and to the home. She also worked on rehabilitation and adaptation for the disabled. Two of her children wrote of their family life in Cheaper by the Dozen.

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    Alessandra Giliani

    Dates: ~1307 - March 26, 1326

    Known for: Alessandra Giliani was reputedly the first to use the injection of colored fluids to trace blood vessels. She was the only known woman prosector in medieval Europe.

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    Maria Goeppert-Mayer
    Maria Goeppert-Mayer. Public domain image courtesy Wikimedia

    Dates: June 18, 1906 - February 20, 1972

    Known for: A mathematician and physicist, Maria Goeppert Mayer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 for her work on the nuclear shell structure.

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    Winifred Goldring

    Dates: February 1, 1888 - January 30, 1971

    Known for: Winifred Goldring worked on research and education in paleontology and published several handbooks on the topic for laypeople and for professionals.  She was the first woman president of the Paleontological Society.

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    Jane Goodall - about 1974
    Jane Goodall - about 1974. Fotos International/Getty Images

    Dates: April 3, 1934 -

    Known for: Primatologist Jane Goodall is known for her chimpanzee observation and research at Gombe Stream Reserve.

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    B. Rosemary Grant

    Dates: October 8, 1936 -

    Known for: With her husband, Peter Grant, Rosemary Grant has studied evolution in action through Darwin's finches. A book about their work won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995.

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    Alice Hamilton

    Dates: February 27, 1869 - September 22, 1970

    Known for: Alice Hamilton was a physician whose time at Hull-House, a settlement house in Chicago, led her to study and write about industrial health and medicine, working especially with occupational diseases, industrial accidents and industrial toxins.

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    Anna Jane Harrison

    Dates: December 23, 1912 - August 8, 1998

    Known for: First woman elected as president of the American Chemical Society, first woman Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Missouri. With limited opportunities to apply her doctorate, she taught at Tulane's women college, Sophie Newcomb College, then after war work with the National Defense Research Council, at Mount Holyoke College. She was a popular teacher, won a number of awards as a science educator and contributed to research on ultraviolet light.

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    Caroline Herschel Portrait 1829
    Caroline Herschel Portrait 1829. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, public domain

    Dates: March 16, 1750 - January 9, 1848

    Known for: Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet.  Her work with her brother, William Herschel, led to the discovery of the planet Uranus,

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    Hildegard of Bingen
    Hildegard of Bingen. Heritage Images / Getty Images

    Dates: 1098 - September 17, 1179

    Known for: Hildegard of Bingen, a mystic or prophet and visionary, wrote books on spirituality, visions, medicine and nature, as well as composing music and carrying out correspondences with many notables of the day.

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    Dates: December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992

    Known for: Grace Hopper was computer scientist in the United States Navy, whose ideas led to the development of the widely-used computer language, COBOL.

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    Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

    Dates: July 11, 1946 -

    Known for: Hrdy is a primatologist who has studied the evolution of primate social behavior, with special attention to the role of women and mothers in evolution.

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    Libbie Hyman

    Dates: December 6, 1888 - August 3, 1969

    Known for: A zoologist, she graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, then worked in a research laboratory on campus. She produced a laboratory manual on vertebrate anatomy, and, when she could live on the royalties, she moved on to a writing career, focusing on invetebrates. Her 5-volume work on invertebrates was influential among zoologists.

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    Hypatia
    Hypatia. Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

    Dates: 355 or 370 - 415/416 C.E.

    Known for: Hypatia was a pagan philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, who may have invented the plane astrolabe, the graduated brass hydromerter and the hydroscope, with her student and colleague, Synesius.

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    Doris F. Jonas

    Dates: May 21, 1916 - 2002

    Known for: A social anthropologist by education, she wrote on psychiatry, psychology and anthropology. Some of her work was co-authored with her first husband, David Jonas. She was an early writer on the way in relationship of mother-child bonding to language development.

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    Mary-Claire King

    Dates: February 27, 1946 -

    Known for: A researcher studying genetics and breast cancer, King is also noted for the then-surprising conclusion that humans and chimpanzees are quite closely related. She used genetic testing in the 1980s to reunite children with their families after a civil war in Argentina.

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    Nicole King

    Dates: 1970 -

    Known for: Nicole King studies the evolution of multicellular organisms, including the contribution of one-celled organisms (choanoflagellates), stimulated by bacteria, to that evolution.

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    Dates: January 15, 1850 - February 10, 1891

    Known for: Sofia Kovalevskaya, mathematician and novelist, was the first woman to hold a university chair in modern Europe and the first woman on the editorial staff of a mathematical journal.

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    Dates: February 6, 1913 - December 9, 1996

    Known for: Mary Leakey studied early humans and hominids at Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli in East Africa. Some of her discoveries were originally credited to her husband and co-worker, Louis Leakey. Her discovery of footprints in 1976 confirmed that australopithecines walked on two feet 3.75 million years ago.

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    Esther Lederberg

    Dates: December 18, 1922 - November 11, 2006

    Known for: created a technique for studying bacteria and viruses, called replica plating.  Her husband used this technique in winning a Nobel Prize.  She also discovered that bacteria mutate randomly, explaining the resistance that is developed to antibiotics, and discovered the lambda phage virus.

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    Inge Lehmann

    Dates: May 13, 1888 – February 21, 1993

    In 1936, she discovered the earth's solid inner core,; earlier, scientists had posited a liquid core, but results after an earthquake led Lehmann to question that theory.

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    Rita Levi-Montalcini

    Rita Levi-Montalcini, 2008
    Rita Levi-Montalcini, 2008. Morena Brengola/Getty Images

    Dates: April 22, 1909 - December 30, 2012

    Known for: Rita Levi-Montalcini hid from the Nazis in her native Italy, prohibited because she was a Jew from working in academia or practicing medicine, and started her work on chicken embryos. That research eventually won her a Nobel Prize for discovering nerve growth factor, changing how doctors understand, diagnosis and treat some disorders like Alzheimers.

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    Ada Lovelace, from a drawing by Alfred Edward Chalon RA
    Ada Lovelace, from a drawing by Alfred Edward Chalon RA. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    (Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace)

    Dates: December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852

    Known for: Ada Lovelace created the concept of an operating system or software.

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    Wangari Maathai, December 2009
    Wangari Maathai at UN Climate Change Summit, 2009. Getty Images / Peter Macdiarmid

    Dates: April 1, 1940 - September 25, 2011

    Known for:  Founder of the Green Belt movement in Kenya, Wangari Maathai was the first woman in central or eastern Africa to earn a Ph.D., and the first woman head of a university department in Kenya.  She was also the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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    Dates: March 15, 1938 - November 22, 2011

    Known for: researching DNA inheritance through mitochondria and chloroplasts, and originating the endosymbiotic theory of cells, showing how cells cooperate in the process of adaptation. Lynn Margulis was married to Carl Sagan, with whom she had two sons. Her second marriage was to Thomas Margulis, a crystallographer, with whom she had a daughter and a son.

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    Dates: probably first century C.E.

    Known for: Known through surviving fragments of her writing, only a few of the texts that she is reputed to have originated, Maria or Mary the Jewess worked in Alexandria as an alchemist, experimenting with distillation, inventing a device called the tribokos and a process and device both called the kerotakis. "Mary's Black" refers to black sulfide produced using the process of kerotakis.  A process of cooking with a water-bath called, in French, bain marie, is also named for Mary the Jewess who described the technique.

    Also known as: Maria the Jewess

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    Barbara McClintock, 1983
    Barbara McClintock, 1983. Keystone / Getty Images

    Dates: June 16, 1902 - September 2, 1992

    Known for: Geneticist Barbara McClintock won the 1983 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology for her discovery of transposable genes.

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    Anthropologist Margaret Mead, 1977
    Anthropologist Margaret Mead, 1977. FPG/Getty Images

    Dates: December 16, 1901 - November 15, 1978

    Known for: Anthropologist Margaret Mead, a curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1928 to her retirement in 1969, published her famous Coming of Age in Samoa in 1928, receiving her Ph.D. from Columbia in 1929. The book, which claimed that girls and boys in the Samoan culture were both taught to and allowed to value their sexuality, was something of a sensation. It has recently been criticized for naivete, most notably by Derek Freeman, summarized in his book, Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth (1983).

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    Lise Meitner

    Dates: November 7, 1878 - October 27, 1968

    Known for: Lise Meitner and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch worked together to develop the theory of nuclear fission, the physics behind the atomic bomb. In 1944, Otto Hahn won the Nobel Prize in physics for work that Lise Meitner had shared in, but Meitner was slighted by the Nobel committee.

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    Maria Sibylla Merian

    Dates: April 2, 1647 – January 13, 1717

    Known for: Maria Sibylla Merian illustrated plants and insects, making detailed observations to guide her.  She documented, illustrated and wrote about the metamorphosis of a butterfly.

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    Maria Mitchell, 1847
    Maria Mitchell, 1847. Courtesy of NOAA Central Library

    Dates: January 15, 1850 - February 10, 1891

    Known for: Maria Mitchell was the first professional woman astronomer in the United States. She was the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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    Nancy A. Moran

    Dates: December 21, 1954 -

    Known for: Moran's work has been in the field of evolutionary ecology. Her work informs our understanding of how bacteria evolve in response to the evolution of the host's mechanisms for defeating the bacteria.

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    May-Britt Moser

    Dates: January 4, 1963 -  

    Known for: Shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with John O'Keefe and her then-husband Edvard Moser.  Their work discovered cells close to the hippocampus that help determine spacial representation or position.  The work has been applied to neurological diseases including Alzheimer's.

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    Florence Nightingale with her owl, Athena
    Florence Nightingale as a young woman with her owl, Athena. SuperStock / Getty Images

    Dates: May 12, 1820 - August 13, 1910

    Known for: Florence Nightingale is remembered as the founder of modern nursing, as a trained profession. Her work in the Crimean War established medical precedent for sanitary conditions in wartime hospitals.  She also invented the pie chart.

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    Dates: March 23, 1882 - April 14, 1935

    Known for: Called by Albert Einstein "the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began," Noether escaped Germany when the Nazis took over, and taught in America for several years before her early death.

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    Antonia Novello

    Dates: August 23, 1944 -

    Known for: Successor to the controversial C. Everett Koop as United States Surgeon General, Antonia Novello was the first Hispanic and the first woman to hold that position. As a physician and medical professor she focused on pediatrics and child health.

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    Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

     Dates: May 10, 1900 - December 7, 1979

    Known for: earned first Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe College, with a dissertation showing the helium and hydrogen were more abundant in stars than on earth, and that hydrogen was the most abundant -- and by implication, though it was against conventional wisdom, that the Earth's sun was mostly hydrogen.

    She worked at Harvard, originally with no formal position, later being titled "Astronomer." The courses she taught were not officially listed in the school's catalogue until 1945. She later was appointed a full professor and then head of the department -- the first woman to hold such a title at Harvard.

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    Dates: June 5, 1646 - July 26, 1684

    Known for: Elena Piscopia was the first woman to earn a doctoral degree, and became a university lecturer in math.

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    Margaret Profet

    Dates: August 7, 1958 -

    Known for: With training in political philosophy and physics, Margaret (Margie) Profet created scientific controversy and developed a reputation as a maverick with her theories about the evolution of menstruation, morning sickness and allergies. Her work on allergies, in particular, has been of interest to scientists who have long noted that people with allergies have a lower risk of some cancers. She mysteriously disappeared from 2005 to 2012.

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    Dixy Lee Ray

    Dates: September 3, 1914 - January 3, 1994

    Known for: A marine biologist and environmentalist, Dixy Lee Ray taught at the University of Washington. She was tapped by President Richard M. Nixon to head the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) where she defended nuclear power plants as environmentally responsible. In 1976, she ran for governor of Washington state, winning one term, then losing the Democratic primary in 1980.

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    Ellen Swallow Richards

    Dates: December 3, 1842 – March 30, 1911

    Known for: Ellen Swallow Richards was the first woman in the United States to be accepted at a scientific school. A chemist, she's credited with founding the discipline of home economics.

    74
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    NASA official portrait of female astronaut Sally Ride.
    NASA official portrait of female astronaut Sally Ride. Courtesy NASA Johnson Space Center (NASA-JSC)

    Dates: May 26, 1951 - July 23, 2012 

    Known for: Sally Ride was the first American woman in space.

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    Florence Sabin

    Dates: November 9, 1871 - October 3, 1953

    Known for: Called the "first lady of American science," Florence Sabin studied the lymphatic and immune systems. She was the first female to hold a full professorship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she had begun studying in 1896. She advocated for women's rights and higher education.

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    Dates: September 14, 1879 - September 6, 1966

    Known for: Margaret Sanger was a nurse who promoted birth control as a means by which a woman could exercise control over her life and health.

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    Charlotte Angas Scott

    Dates: June 8, 1858 - November 10, 1931

    Known for: Charlotte Angas Scott was the first head of the mathematics department at Bryn Mawr College. She also initiated the College Entrance Examination Board and helped organize the American Mathematical Society.

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    Lydia White Shattuck

    Dates: June 10, 1822 -

    Known for: An early graduate of Mount Holyoke Seminary, Lydia White Shattuck became a faculty member there where she remained until her retirement in 1888, just a few months before her death. She taught many science and math topics, including algebra, geometry, physiolgy, physics, astronomy and natural philosophy. She was internationally known as a botanist.

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    Mary Somerville
    Portrait of Mary Somerville. Getty Images / Archive Photos

    Dates: December 26, 1780 - November 29, 1872

    Known for: Mary Somerville was one of the first two women admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society.  She was dubbed "Queen of Nineteenth Century Science" by a newspaper on her death.  Somerville College, Oxford University, is named for her.

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    Sarah Ann Hackett Stevenson

    Dates: February 2, 1841 - August 14, 1909

    Known for: Sarah Stevenson was a pioneer woman physician and medical teacher, a professor of obstetrics and the American Medical Association's first female member.

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    Dates: June 8, 1860 - December 17, 1940

    Known for: Alicia Stott was a mathematician known for her models of three-dimensional geometic figures.

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    Helen Taussig

    Dates: May 24, 1898 - May 20, 1986

    Known for: Helen Brooke Taussig discovered the cause of the problem called "blue babies" and developed with a colleague a shunt, the Blalock-Taussig shunt, to correct the condition. She was also responsible for identifying the drug Thalidomide as the cause of a rash of birth defects in Europe.

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    Shirley M. Tilghman

    Dates: 1946 -

    Known for: A Canadian molecular biologist with several prestigious teaching awards, Tilghman worked on gene cloning and on embryonic development and genetic regulation. In 2001, she became the first woman president of Princeton University.

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    Dates: April 26, 1935 -

    Known for: Sheila Tobias wrote Overcoming Math Anxiety, about women's experience of math education; she has researched and written extensively about gender issues in math and science education.

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    Also known as: Trota of Salerno

    Dates: ? - 1097?

    Known for: Trota or Trotula is credited by some as the author of a compilation of medieval medical, gynecological and obstetrical text, thought by many to be a woman who practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Salerno.  Others believe the name was simply an invention and that there was no female physician behind the writings, and perhaps no single author or editor of the compilation.

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    Lydia Villa-Komaroff

    Dates: August 7, 1947 -

    Known for: A molecular biologist whose work with recombinant DNA contributed to developing insulin from bacteria. She researched or taught at Harvard, the University of Massachusetts and Northwestern. She was only the third Mexican American to be awarded a science Ph.D. and has won many awards and recognition for her achievements.

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    Elisabeth S. Vrba

    Dates: May 17, 1942 -

    Known for: A Yale faculty member, Elisabeth Vrba developed the Turnover Pulse Hypothesis, and has studied the relationship of climate to evolution.

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    Fanny Bullock Workman

    Dates: January 8, 1859 - January 22, 1925

    Known for:  Explorer and geologist who used her adventures to document details about the Himalayas.

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    Chien-Shiung Wu
    Chien-Shiung Wu. Courtesy Library of Congress

    Dates: May 29, 1912 - February 16, 1997

    Known for: China-born physicist Chien-Shiung Wu worked with Dr. Tsung Dao Lee and Dr. Ning Yang at Columbia University. She experimentally disproved the "parity principle" in nuclear physics, and when Lee and Yang won the Nobel Prize in 1957 for this work, they credited her work as being key to the discovery. Chien-Shiung Wu worked on the atomic bomb for the United States during World War II at Columbia's Division of War Research, and taught university level physics.

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    Xilingshi (or Lei-tzu or Si Ling-chi)

    Dates: about 2700 - 2640 BCE

    Known for: traditional (perhaps legendary) discoverer of silk filament, leading to a 2,000 year monopoly by the Chinese on silk fabric production.

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    Rosalyn Yalow

    Dates: July 19, 1921 -

    Known for: Rosalyn Yalow developed a technique called radioimmunoassay (RIA) which allows researchers and technicians to measure biological substances. She shared the 1977 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with her co-workers on this discovery.