Throughout history, both women and men have made important contributions to all areas of science. Without these contributors, many of the scientific advancements we enjoy today would not be possible. In light of International Women’s Month, below are some of the most notable women of science.
Benedict was a notable anthropologist who served as a professor at Columbia University. She is recognized as the author of several important anthropological texts, including “The Races of Mankind,” which discussed the lack of scientific support for racism.
Laura Maria Caterina Bassi
Bassi served at the University of Bologna as an anatomy professor in the 1700s. She is known for her experiments and lectures focusing on Newtonian physics. Future Pope Benedict XIV appointed Bassi to a notable group of academics in 1745.
Clara Barton was a notable nurse who cared for injured Civil War soldiers. She is the founder of the American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization that is still in operation today.
Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey
Florence Bailed was an ornithologist and nature writer who wrote multiple books on the study of birds. Several of her bird guides remain popular today.
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
Rear Admiral Hopper was a United States Naval Officer and a well-known computer scientist who is remembered for her work on the programming of the Mark I, a revolutionary naval computer. She also discovered the first “computer bug” in the history of computer science. This bug turned out to be an actual moth trapped in a vacuum tube. Finally, Hopper created the first compiler and contributed to the development of COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language).
A naturalist living in the 1900s, Joy Adamson is known for her conservation work in Kenya. She also wrote “Born Free,” which is a book that describes her experience of raising a young lion cub and later releasing it into the wild.
Living in the 4th century, Agnodice was a gynecologist and physician who wore men’s clothing because women were not allowed to practice medicine. However, it is unknown whether Agnodice is a historical figure or a legend.
Maria Agnesi was the first female to ever work as a university mathematics professor. Maria Agnesi’s book on mathematics is the first one of its kind written by a woman that is still intact.
Apgar is responsible for the development of the Apgar Newborn Scoring System, which uses several simple criteria to assign a score to a newborn baby. The Apgar Score has dramatically increased infant survival rates. Apgar also questioned the use of certain anesthetics during childbirth.
Elizabeth Garret Anderson
Anderson was the first female to pass Great Britain’s medical exams and work as a physician within the country. She also worked to increase women’s opportunities in higher education.
Elizabeth Arden was a scientist who created, manufactured, and sold a line of famous cosmetics. She sold her products under the company known as Elizabeth Arden, Inc., for which she was the founder and operator.
Émilie du Châtelet
In her relatively short life lived during the first half of the 18th century, du Châtelet chose to spend her highly privileged life in France exploring the physical world and also studying Newton’s contributions to physics. Her own contributions to the mathematical interpretation of energy are directly tied to Einstein’s later, famed formula e=mc2.
The first scientist, (let alone female), to be awarded two Nobel Prizes, her first in physics which she shared with her scientist-husband, and a second in chemistry, Curie is best known for her work with radiation, a term she and her husband coined following the discovery of the element radium.
Partially obscured of fame by age and what is considered a gross oversight by the committee that selects Nobel Prize recipients in physics, the Austrian-born physicist, Lise Meitner is mistakenly remembered as the “Mother of the Atomic Bomb.” In fact, Meitner did confirm nuclear fission, though her work was not directly associated with the Manhattan Project’s development of the world’s first nuclear bombs used in WWII.
Maria Sibylla Merian
When many contemplate the word “metamorphosis,” thoughts of caterpillars turning into beautiful butterflies come to mind. For Maria Merian, that process became the subject of her life, one spent observing nature and then recording what she saw in remarkable works of scientific art. Though her art included pretty flowers, most of her work involved insects, including a South American variety of tarantula that enjoyed the occasional hummingbird, a depiction that brought howls of disapproval from early 18th century critics.
About the author: Matt Herndon is a freelance writer living and working in the Indianapolis area. His undergraduate and graduate work was done in Upper East Tennessee where he studied communication and institutional leadership.