Many women throughout history have dedicated their lives to scientific research – brilliant minds who made important advances without which our lives would be different today.
Cases have already been reported of women scientists whose papers were signed by men, and they have been silenced and marginalized. It is therefore important to know the most important women scientists in the history of science.
8 women scientists you should meet
1. Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848)
Caroline discovered science thanks to her brother William, who was the King of England’s personal astronomer. While working as William’s assistant, Caroline became a brilliant astronomer who discovered new nebulae and star clusters. Caroline was the first woman to discover a comet, the first woman whose work was published by the Royal Society, and the first British woman to be paid for scientific work.
2. Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852)
She is considered the first computer programmer in history and the person who started the computer system we know today. Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage, a British mathematician and scientist. Together they worked on the calculator called the analytical machine. Among Ada’s notes on this machine was the first algorithm to be processed by a machine. The United States Department of Defense named a programming language after her.
3. Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)
Marie Curie was one of the pioneering women scientists in the study of radiation. Her research in this field led her to discover two elements, radium and polonium. She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, specifically for physics, in 1903. Eight years later, in 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize, this time for chemistry, thus becoming the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes in different categories. His eldest daughter, Irène Curie-Joliot, also devoted her life to science and, like her mother, won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her research.
4. Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968)
She was a Swedish physicist of Austrian origin who, together with her research partner Otto Hahn, worked on the study of radioactive elements. Although both researchers had to separate when Lise was forced to leave Nazi Germany in 1938 because of her Jewish background, they were able to continue their collaboration by correspondence. Lise was the one who calculated the energy released in nuclear fission and who coined the term. Otto Hahn won a Nobel Prize for this discovery, while Lise Meitner was not taken into consideration by the Nobel Committee.
5. Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958)
Rosalind Franklin knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a scientist. Although at first her father rejected the idea, Rosalind finally got her PhD in chemistry from Cambridge University. She worked in the laboratory at King’s College in London, where she managed to make a photograph that showed the double helix of DNA. Another researcher from the same lab, Maurice Wilkins, showed the image to two other colleagues and together they published the discovery in the journal Nature. In 1962, these three researchers received the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the double helix of DNA, but Franklin had died four years earlier from ovarian cancer.
6. Margarita Salas (1938 – 2019)
She was one of the most remarkable Spanish scientists, with a doctorate in Biology from the Complutense University of Madrid. She worked for three years with Severo Ochoa at New York University, focusing her research on the field of molecular biology. One of her main contributions to science was the discovery of DNA polymerase, which is responsible for DNA replication.
7. Elizabeth Blackburn (1948)
This Australian scientist, who holds a PhD in Molecular Biology, won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009 for her discovery of telomerase. This enzyme lengthens the telomeres, which are the ends of the chromosomes, and directly influences the life of the cells. His research on telomerase contributes to the study of cancer therapies.
8. Flora de Pablo (1952)
The scientific work of this Spanish doctor specialized in molecular biology focuses on the research of processes of proliferation, differentiation, competition and death of cells. Flora de Pablo has combined her scientific work with the struggle for recognition of women’s work in science through the Association of Women Researchers and Technologists.
The importance of education for refugee girls
The UN estimates that about 90% of the jobs of the future will require people trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Approximately 58 million jobs will be created in these categories. But the UN points out another fact: less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women.
Gender inequality places refugee girls in a very vulnerable position. Refugee girls are half as likely as boys to have access to secondary education, which has a negative impact on their present and future. When refugee girls are educated, child marriages and child mortality rates are reduced.
- What did you think of this list of the 10 most important women scientists in history?.
- What do you think about the injustice and controversy in relation to the acknowledgments of these scientists?.
- Would you modify the list in any way?.
Top scientists in the world
In physics, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton; in chemistry, Melvin Calvin; in biology, Charles Darwin; in sociology, Auguste Comte; in anthropology, Claude Lévi-Strauss or Bronislaw Malinowski; in mathematics, Blaise Pascal; in psychology, Sigmund Freud and so on.
One can cite the names of countless more than important scientists within each discipline and, whether their names are popular or not, the reality is that, generally speaking, the vast majority are men.
But what about the women scientists, the women who throughout history have made spectacular advances in the sciences?
Every year, universities train thousands and thousands of future women scientists, but when it comes to making the headlines, the truth is that our society relegates them to the sidelines.
That is why today I present you with this list of the most important women scientists in history.