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Famous Female Scientists

Science is a field that tends to be very male dominated. However, many female scientists have made contributions to all fields of science that have progressed the subject greatly. Sometimes the discoveries and inventions of female scientists were advancements that reached further than those of the men of the field.

Gertrude Elion

Marie Curie, the first female recipient of the Nobel Prize, was the only woman to be awarded the prize in two separate categories: Physics and Chemistry. Her work led to the discovery of radioactivity, (a term she designated), when she discovered the elements of radium and polonium. The modern day X-ray is a result of Curie's work. She died in 1934 from anemia, resulting from radiation exposure.

The apple didn't fall far from the tree for Irene Joliot-Curie, daughter of Marie Curie. Famous for her studies in radiation, just like her mother, and Irene won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for her discovery of artificial radiation. Her work included the transformation of several elements into separate, different elements.

Rosalind Franklin played off the work of Curie, providing her own research on RNA, DNA, and other molecular structures. She was able to distinguish the double helix shape of DNA structures through the diffraction images of X-ray technology. Franklin also pioneered advancements in the tobacco mosaic virus and polio virus until her death at age 37 of ovarian cancer.

Lise Meitner was the female member of the group of scientists responsible for discovering nuclear fission. She worked closely with Otto Hahn, who received the Noble Prize for their work, although she was excluded from the award. Many in the scientific community consider the overlook to be one of the Nobel committee's biggest errors.

Lise Meitner

Jane Goodall is famous for her revolutionary studies on different primates. She is the most knowledgeable expert worldwide on chimpanzees. Goodall studied chimpanzees in Tanzania for 45 years, examining their social structure and activities, and suggesting that humans and primates are closely related in more ways than just genetics.

Shirley Jackson, the first African American woman to receive a doctorate degree from MIT, made groundbreaking findings in the field of nuclear physics. On July 1, 1999, Jackson, the first female to hold the position, became the18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has received numerous honorary degrees from universities across the United States.

Gertrude B. Elion, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988, was the developer of the revolutionary AIDS drug AZT. Elion refuted the normal process of trial and error and instead relied on biochemical makeups to develop different drug treatments. She served on different organizations, including the World Health Organization, and the National Cancer Institute.

Melissa Franklin, the Department Chair at Harvard University, is an experimental particle physicist. She is the first woman to receive tenure at Harvard. She discovered that top quarks exist after researching in in the Fermi National Acceleration Lab in Chicago.

This list includes a few of the famous female scientists throughout history. Others on the list include Maria Mayer, Rachel Carson, Barbara McClintock, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Elizabeth Blackwell and Christiane Nusslein- Volhard. Who is on your list?


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