Mathematician, Writer, Logician
Mathematician, Writer, Logician
Widely considered the first computer programmer for her creation of the first machine algorithms. This set of computer-executable instructions was meant for the first mechanical “computer”, Charles Babbage’s analytical engine. She also produced many writings on the potential application of computers beyond mathematics, many of which are the first of their kind.
Instrumental in the discovery of the Chicxulub Impact Crater left by the meteor strike that wiped out the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretatious Period. Serves as a science coordinator for NASA and led mission to Jupiter, Pluto, and others. Her work on countless missions over the years have expanded our understanding of asteroids, planets, earth’s geologic history, and the solar system in which it all resides.
Revolutionized treatment for leprosy in the early 20th century, which was used for decades until the development of modern treatments. She was one of the first female chemistry professors in the U.S. Allice died in a tragic lab accident at just 24 years old - after her death, another professor claimed credit for her work.
Studied corn’s hereditary characteristics and how they are passed between generations. In doing so, she discovered genetic transposition (jumping genes), where genetic elements can change position on the chromosome and cause nearby genes to become active or inactive. She earned a Nobel Prize for this discovery.
Writer, Natural Scientist
Produced over 300 scientific illustrations of fungus, mosses, and spores, documenting many unknown or speculated phenomena and furthering the field of Mycology. She developed a theory of germination and submitted papers for scientific review, but was prohibited from presenting her work or attending the review because she was a woman.
Meticulously cataloged the night sky in the late 1700s, discovering over 20 comets and nebulae, for which she became the first woman to receive a salary for her scientific work.
Determined that stars are composed of primarily hydrogen and helium, making hydrogen the most abundant element in the universe. However, this contradicted scientific wisdom of the time, which held that the elemental composition of earth and the stars had no significant differences. Her groundbreaking conclusion was rejected by the scientific community for years, and independent observations and research eventually proved her to be correct.
Chien Shiung Wu
Developed the isolation process for U-235 and U-238, working with Columbia University to develop the atomic bomb. She is believed to be the only Chinese American to have worked on the Manhattan Project. Additionally, she provided confirmatory evidence for beta decay, when the nucleus of one element changes into another element.
Nurse, Statistician, Social Reformer
Used statistics to tie hygiene to healthcare during the Crimean War. She is widely considered the founder of modern nursing, as she led the professionalization of the role with the establishment of her nursing school in London. To easily represent data, she created the first infographics in her extensive medical writings - some of her texts are still in use today.
Computer Programmer, US Navy Rear Admiral
Developed the first compiler, which allowed complex mathematical code to be translated to machine-readable binary. This serves as the basis for most modern user-friendly computing languages. She believed that user friendly computer languages based in the English language would encourage more people to adopt and become proficient with computing.
Created the technological basis for wifi and GPS, frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication. This technology was originally intended for torpedo guidance that could switch frequencies to avoid tracking and jamming efforts. Additionally, she influenced the shaping of Howard Hughes’ aeroplanes, suggesting a more streamlined shape over a rather square design.
Studied chimpanzees in their natural habitats for over 60 years, revealing their ability to make and use tools, and complex social networks and interactions. She is considered the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees
Worked as a codebreaker at Bletchly Park during WW2; responsible for cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma ciphers with Alan Turing. Her work deciphering these secret communications earned her an appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Using a radio telescope, discovered pulsars, radio waves that provided the first evidence for the existence of rapidly spinning neutron stars. She has served as dean of science at the University of Bath and as president of the Royal Astronomical Society, and holds countless awards and honors for her distinguished career in academia.
Analyzed flight paths for NASA spacecraft as one of their human “computers”. Her calculations of orbital trajectories were responsible for putting American astronauts on the moon. She has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was memorialized in the film Hidden Figures.
Developed the mRNA immune activation research responsible for several Covid-19 vaccines, This research was completed at the University of Pennsylvania, alongside immunologist Drew Weissman. Kariko persevered through funding rejections and lack of promotion to pursue the science we know as mRNA technology.
Discovered nuclear fission along with Otto Hahn, who won a Nobel Prize for their shared work (her exclusion is considered a historic snub). She declined offers to work on the Manhattan Project as she opposed the creation of the atomic bomb. Lise was only the second woman in the world to earn a doctorate in physics. and is also known for isolating radioactive isotope protactinium-231.
Astronaut, Engineer, Physician
Became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which orbited the earth in 1992. Aside from her work as an astronaut, Mae is also a physician, engineer, writer, entrepreneur, and actress - she even appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Maria Sibylla Merian
Transformed the fields of Botany and Zoology by collecting and observing live specimens of butterflies and insects rather than preserved specimens. She also challenged social convention by traveling to South America without a male companion and conducting scientific research with her daughter.
Conducted pioneering research into radioactivity, which led to her discoveries of Radium and Polonium, the first two radioactive elements. She has won two Nobel Prizes, each one in a different field, and is the only woman to have ever accomplished such. Additionally, she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Food economist and statistician whose used statistics to define the amount of income a household must obtain in order to afford basic necessities. She determined the cheapest nutritionally available diet and tracked prices around the US in the 1960s. Her work calculating poverty thresholds provided a new way to assess the impact of government policies on the poor.
Nora Stanton Barney
Engineer, Architect, Mathematician
The first female civil engineer and member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, an organization which she sued when rejected for associate membership due to her gender. She ultimately lost this lawsuit, and no female was advanced above junior membership for another 10 years. When her husband gave her an ultimatum to give up engineering to remain his wife, she chose to divorce him.
Invented laser cataract surgery to improve and restore sight to millions, one of the most important developments in Ophthalmology. For her invention, she was the first African American woman to receive a medical patent, and held five unique patents over her career. She also founded the nonprofit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington DC.
Marine Biologist, Environmentalist
Marine Biologist and environmentalist whose book Silent Spring catalyzed the modern environmental movement. Additionally, she first alerted the world to the negative impact of fertilizers and pesticides. This prompted a national ban on certain chemicals, such as DDT, and led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.
Computer Programmer, Network Engineer
Developed the Spanning Tree Protocol, which allowed for efficient routing of traffic on a computer network, while still allowing for redundancies and preventing loops. This algorithm had a profound impact on how networks self-organize and move data, and this protocol still functions as a basis for the internet as we know it today
A pioneer in providing prenatal care and hygiene to the impoverished, she founded a Women’s Directory Center in Philadelphia to provide medical and legal assistance for destitute women and children. She overcame both racial and gender barriers to become the second African-American woman doctor in the US.
Chemist, X-Ray Crystallographer
Her x-ray diffraction studies showed the double helix structure of DNA, which would inform Watson and Crick’s model of DNA, for which they won a Nobel Prize. Though Rosalind Franklin was not credited, Crick said her contribution had been critical. Aside from DNA, she also worked on understanding the molecular structures of RNA, graphite, coal, and viruses.
Studied the rotational speeds of spiral galaxies to confirm theories of dark matter, and show how it settles like haloes around galaxies, providing the gravitational pull to keep them stable. She also advocated for equal treatment of women in science, delivering talks shortly after giving birth, and going so far as to take on prestigious scientific journals such as Nature.
Influential Architect, Designer
British-Iraqi architect whose modern fluid design resulted in her becoming the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize (nicknamed the Nobel prize of architecture) as well as twice clinching Britain’s Stirling Prize for architecture. She is considered a major figure in the architecture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.