12 Women Scientists In History Who Inspires Us

September 13, 2019

A woman can achieve anything when she sets her heart on it — proven by the following ladies.

Marie Curie is probably the only female scientist most of us are aware of. Of course, Marie’s contributions were incredibly significant, but she is not the only female scientist worth knowing about and paying attention to. Here is a list of 12 notable women who studied everything that can be called a science. 

Caroline Herschel, Astronomer (1750–1848)

Caroline Herschel is popularly known for supporting her brother, William, study space and planets. William discovered the planet Uranus. But, Caroline was much more than just her brother’s assistant. She received the Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, discovered eight comets, and was one of the first women scientists invited to join the Royal Society.

You can learn more about this incredible scientist in Caroline’s Comets (Arnold McCully, 2017), or even read her own memoir and correspondence.

Ada Lovelace, Mathematician (1815–1852)

The poet Lord Byron was the father of Lovelace, and her marriage made her the Countess of Lovelace, but Ada’s passion was mathematics. She and Charles Babbage worked jointly to create what is known as the first computer, the ENIAC. She’s widely known as the first computer programmer.

Learn more about this beautiful scientist in Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Wallmark/Chu, 2015) and The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (Padua, 2015).

Elizabeth Blackwell, Doctor (1821–1910)

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US in 1849. She was contributory in involving women in the medical industry. She was kind enough to mentor many women who took up careers in the field. Dr Blackwell focused on providing health care for women and children.

Explore her life in The Excellent Doctor Blackwell (Boyd, 2013).

Lise Meitner, Physicist (1878–1968)

Lise and two other scientists worked together to make one of the most valuable scientific discoveries of the 20th century: nuclear fission. This opened up the whole new world of nuclear physics. Lise has an element on the period table named after her, meitnerium (109). 

Lise Meitner Had the Right Vision About Nuclear Fission(Venezia, 2010) gives an overview of Meitner’s achievements. 

Bessie Coleman, Aviator (1892–1926)

The first woman of African American and Native American origin to earn a pilot’s license was Bessie. She worked as an exhibition aviator, inspiring women and men of all kinds to dream of flying their planes one day. Now, if you are wondering if Bessie is in the right place, let me clarify. Yes, Aviation is a science. Aerospace engineering is a science.

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman (Bordan/Kroeger, 2004) is a colourful telling of the story of Bessie Coleman. Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman (Grimes/Lewis 2002) is historically accurate fiction for older readers.

Alice Ball, Chemist (1892–1916)

Alice was the first woman and African-American to earn a master’s degree from the College of Hawaii (now the University of Hawaii at Mānoa). She is known for developing an injectable treatment for leprosy that became the standard for more than two decades.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (Ignotofsky, 2016) and Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World(Swaby, 2015) are incredibly informative books on her. They make exciting reads as well. 

Rachel Carson, Marine Biologist and Conservationist (1907–1964)

Rachel was in love with the sea, and apparently, writing too. Inspired by the sea, she used her poetic side to write a trilogy on the sea’s wonders. Over time, her love for the sea made her want to understand the life that thrives on it. She studied the dangers of pesticides like DDT. She sparked the conservation movement (and eventually the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency) with her most famous work, Silent Spring.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World (Lawlor/Beingessner, 2014) and Silent Spring give an insight into her work for science and the earth. 

Katherine Johnson, Mathematician

Katherine calculated trajectories, launch windows, and flight paths for programs from Project Mercury to the space shuttle, all without computers. She did not have her life easy. She was put through terrible racism and misogyny. She shone through her troubles. 

Young readers will love Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 (Becker/Phumiruk, 2018) that tells the heroic stories of Johnson. Hidden Figures: The Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race (Shetterly/Freeman, 2018) or the Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition (Shetterly, 2016) make relevant reads for readers interested to know more about Katherine. 

Rosalind Franklin, Chemist (1920–1958)

Rosalind was one of the most underrated and understated women scientists. She invented X-ray diffraction images of DNA. This progress enabled Watson and Crick to work on the discovery of double-helix shape. While the later duo received the Nobel Prize, her work went unrecognised. Rosalind also made essential contributions to the studies of RNA and viruses.

Find Rosalind Franklin in Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (Ignotofsky, 2016). Read a full biography, like Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Maddox, 2013).

Raye Montague, Naval Engineer (1935–2018)

Raye’s first job on the Navy was a typist. She was studying computer programming in the nights. She was the first person to produce a naval ship design utilising a computer program. 

Mae Jemison, Astronaut

Mae was thoroughly thrilled when she learned of Sally Ride, the first female astronaut in space. It sowed the very first seeds of her intentions and love for outer space. She became the first African American woman, in 1992, to go to space on the shuttle Endeavor. She is a proud holder of a medical degree and is working as a college professor. She has also founded a company to work with space-age technology.

Mae Among the Stars tells her story in an exciting picture book approach. For older readers, Mae has written, Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments From My Life (Jemison, 2001), which proves to be an exciting read. 

Patricia Bath, Ophthalmologist and Inventor

Who would have guessed the laser surgery for cataracts was invented by a woman who is still alive and fit? Patricia holds five patents, including those for earth-shattering laser technology used to treat cataracts. She was a winner of a National Science Foundation scholarship in high school. She became the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute.

Younger kids would love reading The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr Patricia Bath (Mosca/Riely, 2017). Dr Bath herself authored Rainbow Science: What, Why, How? (2018).


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