Here’s our alphabetical list of the most popular female scientists on the Famous Scientists website.
Ancient animals, fossils, and paleontology: discovered the first complete specimen of a plesiosaur; deduced the diets of dinosaurs.
The first woman to qualify as a physician in America; founder of America’s first medical school for women.
Co-discovered how our sense of smell works: humans have about 350 different types of odor receptor cell which send signals directly into the brain’s olfactory bulb.
A founder of 20th century environmentalism, her book Silent Spring led to a reappraisal of the effect of chemicals such as DDT on the environment, leading to bans and heavy restrictions.
Co-discovered the chemical elements radium and polonium; made numerous pioneering contributions to the study of radioactive elements; carried out the first research into the treatment of tumors with radiation.
Provided much of the experimental data used to establish the structure of DNA, and discovered that DNA can exist in two forms. Established that coal acts as a molecular sieve.
Became the world’s most famous codebreaker in the 1930s; broke the Enigma code in the 1940s, revealing a Nazi plot to take over South America.
Discovered that the most abundant chemical elements in stars and hence in the universe are hydrogen and helium.
Self-taught mathematican who pretended she was a man. Developed elasticity theory and made significant progress in her personal program to prove Fermat’s last theorem.
Ground breaking discoveries in chimpanzee behavior; established that chimpanzees have similar social behavior to humans and also that they make tools, and eat and hunt for meat.
Discovered five comets; produced award winning catalogue of nebulae; the brother-sister team of William & Caroline Herschel increased the number of known nebulae from about 100 to 2,500.
Pioneer of electronic computers: invented the first compiler; was the principal architect of COBOL, the most widely used computer language of the twentieth century.
One of the most eminent mathematicians of late classical antiquity; scholars traveled from around the classical world to learn mathematics and astronomy at her school.
Co-discovered how to convert stable chemical elements into ‘designer’ radioactive elements; these have saved millions of lives and are used in tens of millions of medical procedures every year.
In the early 1960s, thousands of children died or were born malformed because their mothers took the drug thalidomide during pregnancy. Few ‘thalidomide babies’ were born in the USA, largely because Frances Kelsey blocked American sales.
Invented kevlar, the incredibly strong plastic used in applications ranging from body armor to tennis racquet strings.
Discovered that Cepheid variable stars act as a ‘standard candle,’ opening the door to measuring the distances to far distant stars and the discovery of galaxies beyond the Milky Way.
Analyzed earthquake waves to discover that within our planet’s liquid core, at the earth’s center, there is a solid core whose diameter is greater than 1,000 km.
The mother of computing science; contributed to the first published computer program; was the first person to see that computers could do more than mathematical calculations, recognizing that musical notes and letters of the alphabet could be turned into numbers for manipulation by computers.
Author of Conversations on Chemistry, a unique textbook for its time written for people with little formal education, such as girls and the poor. The book inspired Michael Faraday to overcome his poor origins to become a great scientist.
Groundbreaking genetics: showed that genes switch the physical traits of an organism on or off; discovered chromosomal crossover, which increases genetic variation in species; discovered transposition – that genes can move about within chromosomes.
Discovered that nuclear fission can produce enormous amounts of energy; codiscovered the phenomenon of radioactive recoil.
A health pioneer who transformed nursing into a respected, highly trained profession; used statistics to analyze wider health outcomes; advocated sanitary reforms largely credited with adding 20 years to life expectancy between 1871 and 1935.
Probably the greatest female mathematician in history, Noether’s theorem revealed a fundamental property of our universe, that for every conservation law there is an invariant. Her founding work in abstract algebra revolutionized mathematics.
Discovered francium, the last ever chemical element found naturally. All elements since have been produced artificially.
Self-taught mathematician and polymath; bestselling popularizer of science; acclaimed for her translation and revision of Pierre Laplace’s groundbreaking book on celestial mechanics.
Discovered that an organism’s sex is determined by its chromosomes, now known as the XY sex-determination system – the discovery was the first time a link was demonstrated between a physical characteristic and chromosome differences.
Discovered the drug artemisinin, a treatment for malaria, extracting it from sweet wormwood, an herb utilized in Chinese fever treatments for more than 2,000 years. Artemisinin and its derivatives have saved or improved the lives of millions of people.