1Chemist and Physicist Marie Curie
Along with her husband, Pierre Curie, and physicist Henri Becquerel, Marie helped discover radioactive particles and the theory behind them. She even came up with the term "radioactivity" and often led the group in their investigations. She also discovered two new elements—polonium and radium.
It was Marie's idea to start studying the treatment of tumors with radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which are important medical research centers, even today.
Unfortunately, Marie was unaware of the dangers of radioactivity—she often studied the substances with no protective gear whatsoever. Eventually, she died from aplastic anemia caused by long-term exposure to radiation. To this day, her journals and research notes are too radioactive to be handled and are kept in lead-lined boxes. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Photo)
2Chemist Irene Curie-Joliot
Like her mother, Irene received a Nobel Prize for her work and her family still holds the title for the most Nobel laureates. Her children, Helene, and Pierre are also highly-regarded scientists. Without a doubt, scientific brilliance runs in this family. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Photo)
3Primatologist Jane Goodall
Goodall had been fascinated by chimps ever since she was a child. It wasn't long before she obtained a position working with noted Kenyan paleontologist Louis Leakey, who was seeking a chimpanzee researcher to help him draw conclusions on early hominoids. Leakey must have been impressed with Goodall because he sent her to Cambridge University, where she became the eighth person in the school's history to obtain a Ph.D. without first obtaining a bachelor's degree.
Aside from her studies in the wild, Goodall has become a well-known spokesperson for conservation and animal welfare. She has even founded some charities, research institutes and advocacy groups to further her goals. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Source 4 | Photo)
4Physicist Lise Meitner
Unfortunately, despite playing a critical role in that scientific discovery, Hahn was awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in chemistry and Meitner was otherwise ignored. Even after numerous scientists and journalists protested that her exclusion was unfair, the committee has yet to announce any formal recognition of her work.
That's not to say Meitner hasn't been honored in other ways. She was awarded the Leibniz Medal by the Berlin Academy of Sciences, received five honorary doctorates and was the first woman to become a professor of physics in Germany. In 1946, the American National Press Club named her "Woman of the Year" and in 1955, she was awarded the first Otto Hahn Prize from the German Chemical Society. The chemical element 109 (meitnerium) is named after her, and craters on the Moon and Venus bear her name as well. Even so, her awards have been long overshadowed by her exclusion from the Nobel Prize. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Source 4 | Photo)
5Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Scientists have criticized the decision, noting that Bell first discovered and analyzed the pulsars. She even helped build the telescope that was so crucial in their discovery. (Surprisingly, Bell was not upset by the decision and even joked about being "in good company.")
Bell received many other honors for her work. She was named the president of the Royal Astronomical Society, president of the Institute of Physics, president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and pro-chancellor of the University of Dublin. She also received honorary degrees from over twenty colleges including Cambridge and Harvard, and many awards including the Woman of the Year Prudential Lifetime Achievement Award. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Photo)
6Paleontologist Mary Anning
Why is Mary Anning so famous for selling seashells? Because these weren't just any seashells, they were fossils that made a significant contribution to paleontology, by helping to enhance the scientific community's understanding of Earth's history.
Anning climbed cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. It was incredibly dangerous work, and she almost died in a landslide in 1833, which did take the life of her dog. It did pay off, though—she uncovered the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton, two full plesiosaur skeletons, and the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany.
Unfortunately, despite her crucial work, she struggled financially for the majority of her life and was never accepted as a member of the 19th-century scientific community due to her gender. It wasn't until after her death in 1847 that she started getting the attention she deserved. In 2010, the Royal Society included her on their list of the most influential British women in science. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Photo)
7Cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock
Her research was so far ahead of its time that she was highly criticized to the point where she stopped publishing her work by 1953. Fortunately, it was eventually rediscovered and accepted, and she began receiving some awards for her work, including a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Source 4 | Photo)
8Mathematician and Astronomer Hypatia
While not related to her scientific achievements, Hypatia is also famous for being killed by a mob of Christian zealots in 415 A.D. Many historians consider her death to be significant, arguing that it marks the end of Classical antiquity and Alexandrian intellectualism. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Photo)
Plato, Apollonius of Rhodes, and Plutarch wrote about Aglaonice. Little is known about her life, but it seems unlikely that she was merely a legend. One of the craters on Venus has since been named after her.
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