February 11 is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to celebrate the achievements of great women scientists in history. From novel treatments for diseases to innovative discoveries in the field of science, women scientists have changed the world for good. Other than promoting their contributions to the field of science, the International Day of Women and Science also highlights the gender gap and the obstacles that women scientists need to overcome to make their mark. This 11th February, let us recall some inspiring women and their contributions to scientific discovery. Here are 7 of history’s greatest women scientists:
Everyone has heard about Marie Curie – one of the most influential scientists of all time. A Nobel Prize recipient in Chemistry in 1911, she is known for her marvelous discovery of polonium and radium. She along with her physicist husband, Pierre Curie, also won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903.
Born to a Jewish family, Rosalind aspired to become a scientist since childhood. The British scientist is famous for her incredible contributions in discovering the molecular structure of DNA in 1953 through a technique called x-ray crystallography. She also contributed to resolving the structure of viruses which helped in laying the foundation of structural virology.
One of the first women to write instructions for the first computer program in the mid-1800s, Ada Lovelace is a gifted mathematician and has worked with Charles Babbage, the father of the computer. Her astounding achievements are celebrated every year as Ada Lovelace Day to acknowledge the contribution of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
From being one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna to becoming the first woman physics professor in Germany, Lise Meitner was a protégé of the famous physicist, Max Planck. Because of her contribution in discovering the chemical element 109, it was named after her – Meitnerium.
Famous for her discovery of mobile genetic elements called “jumping genes”, Barbara McClintock was the first woman to be bestowed with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1983. Based on her research and publications, she was elected president of the Genetics Society in 1944 and vice president of the Genetics Society of America in 1939.
Rachel Carson is the American marine biologist who is famous for her relentless efforts to ban the harmful pesticide DDT from the United States. Her writings cover topics such as environmental pollution, dangers of using pesticides, the natural history of the sea, and others. Caron’s books like Silent Spring aim to create awareness in the world regarding the dangers of environmental pollution.
A testimony to courage and determination, Rita Levi-Montalcini pursued her dreams of becoming an American neurologist despite every obstacle that came her way. She co-discovered Nerve Growth Factor, a molecule that stimulates the growth of nerve cells, and earned the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1986.
These inspiring and incredible women scientists who have contributed to the field of science in their own spectacular ways have changed our perspective of the world around us, and hence, we should not wait for days like International Day of Women and Girls in Science and Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate their contributions.