Famous Female Scientists

Throughout history there have been many great females who have contributed to the various fields of science. They have won Nobel Prizes, made important discoveries and done key research that has worked to advance civilization as a whole. Below are some of the world’s most famous female scientists along with descriptions of what made their work so important.

Famous Female Scientists

Caroline-Herschel Maria Mitchell Mare-Curie
Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
Nationality: German
Known For: Discovering comets
Caroline Herschel worked closely together with her brother Sir William Herschel throughout their careers as astronomers. Caroline discovered several comets, one of which, the 35P/Herschel-Rigollet, is named after her. She was the first woman scientist to be recognized by the United Kingdom.
Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)
Nationality: American
Known For: Findings in astronomy
Maria Mitchell was the very first American female to become a professional astronomer. She discovered a comet in 1847 that was aptly named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.”
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Nationality: Polish
Known For: Work on radioactivity
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win this award in two categories: Physics and Chemistry. She discovered polonium and radium and her work helped with the creation of X-rays.
Lise-Meitner Irene-Joliot-Curie Rita-Levi-Montalcini
Lise Meitner (1878-1968)
Nationality: Austrian
Known For: Work on radioactivity and nuclear physics
Lise Meitner was a key member of a group that discovered nuclear fission. One of her colleagues, Otto Hahn, was given the Noble Prize for this work and Meitner’s exclusion from the award is considered to be a huge error by the Nobel committee.
Irene Joliot Curie (1897-1956)
Nationality: French
Known For: Study of radiation
Daughter of famed Marie Curie, Irene Joliot Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for the finding of artificial radioactivity. She, along with her husband Frederic, also turned boron into radioactive nitrogen as well as aluminim into phosphorus and magnesium into silicon.
Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)
Nationality: Italian
Known For: Nerve growth studies
Rita Levi-Montalcini was a neurologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for her findings in nerve growth factor (NGF). She was the first Nobel laureate to live past her 100th birthday.
Dorothy-Hodgkin Chien-Shiung-Wu-2 Gertrude-Elion
Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994)
Nationality: British
Known For: Protein crystallography
Dorothy Hodgkin is known for her advancement of X-ray crystallography techniques which are now implemented to figure out the three dimensional structures of biomolecules. She was given the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her findings on the makeup of vitamin B12.
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)
Nationality: Chinese American
Known For: Work with experimental physics and radioactivity
Chien-Shiung Wu is known for her work on the Manhattan Project and her help with finding the process for separating uranium into U-238 and U-235. She has several nicknames including the “Chinese Maria Curie” and the “First Lady of Physics.”
Gertrude Elion (1918-1999)
Nationality: American
Known For: Development of new drugs
Gertrude Elion was a joint-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988 “for discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.” One of her most notable creations was the development of the AIDS drug AZT.
Rosalind-Franklin Jane-Goodall Shirley-Jackson
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
Nationality: British
Known For: Research on RNA, DNA, graphite, coal and viruses
Rosalind Franklin was a X-ray crystallographer and biophysicist whose work greatly contributed to the comprehension of molecular structures. Her most notable work revolved around X-ray diffraction images of DNA. Her work in this resulted in the finding of the DNA double helix.
Jane Goodall (1934-present)
Nationality: British
Known For: Primate studies
Jane Goodall is known world-wide for her groundbreaking studies on primates. She is considered the top expert on chimpanzeees in the world and is perhaps best known for her 45 year study on the social lives of these animals in Tanzania.
Shirley Jackson (1946-present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Work in nuclear physics
Shirley Ann Jackson was the first African American woman to attain a doctorate degree at MIT in nuclear physics. She has received many awards for her research and work as well as several honorary doctorate degrees.
Elizabeth-Blackburn melissa-franklin
Elizabeth Blackburn (1948-present)
Nationality: Austrian-American
Known For: Work with telomere
Elizabeth Blackburn won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her discovery of telomerase which is the enzyme which replenishes telomere. Telomere is part of the end of a chromosome which protects them.
Melissa Franklin (1957-present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Particle physics studies
Melissa Franklin currently holds a position as an experimental particle physicists at Harvard University where she is Department Chair. She headed a team at the Fermi National Acceleration Lab in Chicago where they found the first signs that top quarks exist. Franklin was also the first woman to get tenure at the Harvard Physics department.
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