American Women Scientists

Throughout history, there have been many American women scientists who have made significant contribution to the field. The list includes many familiar and great American female scientists such as Sally Ride, Grace Hopper, Rachel Carson, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite American Women Scientists

 1 
Rachel Carson
(Marine biologist)

Rachel Carson
4
Birthdate: May 27, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Springdale
Died: April 14, 1964

Rachel Carson was a conservationist, marine biologist, and author. She is credited with authoring an influential book titled Silent Spring, which played a significant role in advancing the global environmental movement. Carson is also remembered for her book, The Sea Around Us, which earned her a U.S. National Book Award. She was posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 2 
Katherine Johnson
(Mathematician)

Katherine Johnson
36
Birthdate: August 26, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, United States
Died: February 24, 2020
Katherine Johnson was a physicist and mathematician, remembered as the first African-American female NASA scientist. Her calculations helped launch the space missions of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. She was crucial to the Apollo program and won a Congressional Gold Medal and a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her achievements.

 3 
Grace Hopper
(Computer Scientist)

Grace Hopper
21
Birthdate: December 9, 1906
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: January 1, 1992
Computer scientist and U.S. Navy rear admiral Grace Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computing system. She pioneered the machine-independent programming language technique, and the FLOW-MATIC language used by her was later used to create COBOL. She received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 4 
Terri Irwin
(Naturalist Who is The Owner of Australia Zoo in 'Beerwah, Queensland')

Terri Irwin
6
Birthdate: July 20, 1964
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Eugene, Oregon, United States

American–Australian naturalist Terri Irwin is best known as the co-host of The Crocodile Hunter, along with her husband, the late animal expert Steve Irwin. She has also been part of shows such as Croc Files and Crikey! It's the Irwins, and helped in the development of Australia Zoo.

 5 
Dian Fossey
(Zoologist, Conservationist)

Dian Fossey
6
Birthdate: January 16, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: December 26, 1985
Zoologist, primatologist, and conservationist Dian Fossey conducted research on mountain gorillas in Rwanda from 1966 until she was murdered in 1985. She was part of the Trimates assigned to study apes by paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey. She wrote Gorillas in the Mist, which was later turned into a film.

 6 
Mary Jackson
(Mathematician)

Mary Jackson
8
Birthdate: April 9, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hampton, Virginia, United States
Died: February 11, 2005

American mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson went down in history as the first African-American woman to work as a NASA engineer. Initially a math teacher, she later joined NACA under Dorothy Vaughan and contributed to countless American space programs at a time when racial segregation was the norm.

 7 
Temple Grandin
(Scientist)

Temple Grandin
4
Birthdate: August 29, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Temple Grandin is an American activist and scientist. An outspoken proponent of the neurodiversity and autism rights movements, Grandin is one of the first individuals to document the insights gained from her own experience of autism. She has also authored over 60 scientific papers on animal behavior. Her life and work inspired the 2010 biographical drama film Temple Grandin.

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 8 
Dorothy Vaughan
(Mathematician)

Dorothy Vaughan
29
Birthdate: September 20, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Died: November 10, 2008

American mathematician Dorothy Vaughan was also known as a "human computer." Initially a math teacher, she became the first African-American supervisor of NACA, later part of NASA, at a time when racial segregation was rampant in the U.S. Her contribution to the early American space programs is invaluable.

 9 

Lynn Margulis
7
Birthdate: March 5, 1938
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: November 22, 2011

Lynn Margulis was an evolutionary theorist, biologist, educator, and science author. She was a modern proponent of the significance of symbiosis in evolution. Along with British chemist James Lovelock, Margulis was the co-developer of the Gaia hypothesis. She was a strong critic of neo-Darwinism. In 2001, she was honored with the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. 

 10 
Vera Rubin
(Astronomer)

Vera Rubin
5
Birthdate: July 23, 1928
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: December 25, 2016

American astronomer Vera Rubin is best known for her pioneering discoveries on galaxy rotation rates, her groundbreaking work confirming the existence of dark matter and for her life-long advocacy for women in science. She studied the galactic rotation curves and provided strong evidence of the existence of dark matter. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile is named after her.

 11 
Jennifer Doudna
(Biochemist)

Jennifer Doudna
4
Birthdate: February 19, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

American biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, who has made fundamental contributions in biochemistry and genetics, is best-known for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene-editing. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a method for genome editing through CRISPR, marking them as the only two women to share science Nobel ever.

 12 
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin
(Astronomer, Astrophysicist)

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin
6
Birthdate: May 10, 1900
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wendover, Buckinghamshire, England
Died: December 7, 1979

After losing her father at 4, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was raised singlehandedly by her mother. The incredibly talented Cecilia studied at Cambridge but failed to secure a degree because of her gender. She later joined Harvard and opposing prevalent beliefs, proposed that stars were mainly made of hydrogen and helium. 

 13 
Margaret Hamilton
(Computer Scientist)

Margaret Hamilton
9
Birthdate: August 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paoli, Indiana, United States

Credited with coining the term software engineering, computer scientist and systems engineer, Margaret Heafield Hamilton served as the Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, overseeing the development of the on-board flight software for NASA's Apollo program.  A prolific writer, she is also the founder of two software companies; Higher Order Software and Hamilton Technologies.

 14 
Retta
(Stand-up Comedian)

Retta
13
Birthdate: April 12, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, U.S.

 15 
Sally Ride
(First American Woman To Go in Space, Physicist)

Sally Ride
19
Birthdate: May 26, 1951
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Encino, Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: July 23, 2012
Astronaut and physicist Sally Ride was the first American woman and the youngest American astronaut to enter space. Following her death, it was revealed that she had been in a 27-year lesbian relationship with tennis player and professor Tam O'Shaughnessy. Sally herself was a ranked junior tennis player, too.

 16 
Peggy Whitson
(Astronaut, Biochemist)

Peggy Whitson
6
Birthdate: February 9, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Beaconsfield, Iowa, United States

The first woman to command the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was born to farmers and decided to become an astronaut after watching the moon landing on TV. She also boasts of a PhD in biochemistry and has been a researcher and educator of biochemistry and genetic engineering.

 17 
Nettie Stevens
(Geneticist)

Nettie Stevens
5
Birthdate: July 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cavendish, Vermont, United States
Died: May 4, 1912

Nettie Stevens was an American geneticist. She is credited with discovering sex chromosomes which later came to be known as the X and Y chromosomes. In 1994, Nettie Stevens was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 18 
Alicia Nash
(Physicist)

Alicia Nash
6
Birthdate: January 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Salvador, El Salvador
Died: May 23, 2015

Born in El Salvador, Alicia Nash later moved to the U.S., where she became one of the first women to join MIT as a student. The physicist met her husband, renowned mathematician John Nash at MIT. Both Alicia and John were killed in car crash while returning home from Norway.

 19 

Stephanie Kwolek
5
Birthdate: July 31, 1923
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New Kensington, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 18, 2014

Stephanie Kwolek was an American chemist remembered for her invention of Kevlar. She worked at the DuPont Company for over four decades and was awarded the company's Lavoisier Medal for her discovery. In 1995, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, becoming the fourth woman to be inducted. She also won other awards including the Perkin Medal.

 20 
Sylvia Earle
(Marine biologist)

Sylvia Earle
9
Birthdate: August 30, 1935
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gibbstown, New Jersey, U.S.
Sylvia Earle is known for her research on marine algae and she was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Earle held the world record for the deepest untethered dive and was named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet, in 1998. She also featured in Netflix Original documentary Seaspiracy.

 21 
Annie Jump Cannon
(Astronomer)

Annie Jump Cannon
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1863
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dover
Died: April 13, 1941

After studying physics and astronomy at Wellesley College, Annie Jump Cannon traveled across Europe and focused on photography for a decade, before venturing to study astronomy again. At the Harvard Observatory, she made a considerable contribution to the classification of stellar bodies. She was almost deaf due to scarlet fever.

 22 
Frances Oldham Kelsey
(Pharmacologist)

Frances Oldham Kelsey
4
Birthdate: July 24, 1914
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cobble Hill, Canada
Died: August 7, 2015

As part of the FDA, Frances Oldham Kelsey prevented thalidomide from being allowed in the US drug market as a painkiller, as she was unsure of its impact. Her concerns were proved right when the drug caused birth defects in European children. She was subsequently awarded by the US president.

 23 
Nell Newman
(Former Child Actress and Founder of ‘Newman’s Own Organics')

Nell Newman
7
Birthdate: April 8, 1959
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, United States

Nell Newman is a biologist, environmentalist, and former child actress. An ardent supporter of sustainable agriculture, Newman is credited with founding a pet food and organic food production company called Newman's Own. For her environmental leadership, Newman was honored with the Rachel Carson Award in 2014. In 2017, she was made an inductee of the Specialty Food Hall of Fame.

 24 
Kathleen Rubins
(Astronaut, Biologist)

Kathleen Rubins
4
Birthdate: October 14, 1978
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Farmington

Kathleen Rubins is a microbiologist and NASA astronaut. In 2016, she became the 60th woman to fly in space when she launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. She traveled to the International Space Station and returned to Earth after a few months. She has spent a total of 300 days, 1 hour, and 31 minutes in space. 

 25 

Barbara McClintock
8
Birthdate: June 16, 1902
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: September 2, 1992

Barbara McClintock was a scientist and cytogeneticist who received the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She earned her Ph.D. in botany from Cornell University and began her lifelong work in the development of maize cytogenetics. She eventually gained recognition as among the best in the field and was honored with several prestigious awards.  

 26 

Henrietta Swan Leavitt
4
Birthdate: July 4, 1868
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lancaster, Massachusetts
Died: December 12, 1921

Born to a church minister, Henrietta Swan Leavitt grew up to work as a “human computer” at the Harvard Observatory. The American astronomer gained fame for discovering the period-luminosity relation of Cepheid variables. However, her brilliant scientific career was halted by her death due to stomach cancer at 53.

 27 
Deborah Birx
(Physician)

Deborah Birx
6
Birthdate: April 4, 1956
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States

Doctor and diplomat Deborah Birx was the Trump administration’s coronavirus response co-ordinator. The renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, however, quit the virus team after reports suggested she had attended a Thanksgiving family gathering, breaching COVID-19 protocol. She later joined the air-cleaning company ActivePure, amid reports of it using banned technology.

 28 
Lisa Randall
(Physicist, University teacher)

Lisa Randall
3
Birthdate: June 18, 1962
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Queens, New York, United States

Apart from teaching at Harvard, theoretical physicist Lisa Randall has also held professorships at MIT and Princeton. She has also written several popular books, such as Warped Passages and Knocking on Heaven’s Door. One of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2007, she has also written a libretto for an opera.

 29 

Elizabeth Blackburn
7
Birthdate: November 26, 1948
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hobart, Australia

Nobel Prize-winning Australian-American biochemist and molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn is best known for co-discovering the enzyme telomerase. She was allegedly removed from the American President's Council on Bioethics over her support for stem cell research, which went against the government. She has honorary doctorate degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

 30 
Tam O'Shaughnessy
(Tennis player, Writer)

Tam O'Shaughnessy
4
Birthdate: January 27, 1952
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: San Andreas, California, United States

 31 
Susan Powter
(Motivational Speaker, Nutritionist & Author)

Susan Powter
4
Birthdate: December 22, 1957
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia

Susan Powter moved from Australia to the U.S. with her parents at 10. While coping with her first divorce, she had gained weight, which eventually motivated her to become a fitness enthusiast. Now a prominent nutritionist, fitness blogger, and talk-show host, she is known for her catchphrase "Stop the Insanity!"

 32 
Marina Oswald
(Pharmacist)

Marina Oswald
4
Birthdate: July 17, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Severodvinsk Molotovsk, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

Marina Oswald is a Russian-born American pharmacist best known as the widow of Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed the 35th president of the USA, John F. Kennedy. She played a key role in the Warren Commission hearings where she testified against Oswald. Marina has been portrayed by many actresses in films like JFK and Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald.

 33 
Williamina Fleming
(Astronomer)

Williamina Fleming
3
Birthdate: May 15, 1857
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Died: May 21, 1911

Born in Scotland, Williamina Fleming moved to the U.S. with her husband, where she began working as a housekeeper for Harvard Observatory director Edward C. Pickering. Pickering secured her a job at the observatory, and Fleming went on to establish a classification and cataloguing system for stars.

 34 
Fei-Fei Li
(Computer scientist)

Fei-Fei Li
5
Birthdate: 1976 AD
Birthplace: Beijing

 35 
Gertrude B. Elion
(Biochemist, Pharmacologist)

Gertrude B. Elion
3
Birthdate: January 23, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: February 21, 1999

The daughter of Jewish immigrants in New York, Gertrude B. Elion excelled in chemistry at Hunter College, where she studied for free, but was initially unable to find a job due to gender bias. The renowned biochemist and pharmacologist later won a Nobel and became a pioneer in medical research.

 36 
Sandra Lerner
(Businessperson)

Sandra Lerner
5
Birthdate: 1955 AD
Birthplace: America

 37 
Suzanne Eaton
(Scientist and professor of molecular biology)

Suzanne Eaton
3
Birthdate: December 23, 1959
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oakland, California, United States
Died: July 2, 2019

American molecular scientist Suzanne Eaton had spent most of professional life at the Max Planck Institute. The WICB Junior Award winner had initially also considered alternative academic careers in comparative literature and math. She was raped and murdered by a Greek man in Crete, where she had gone for a conference.

 38 
Gerty Cori
(Biochemist)

Gerty Cori
3
Birthdate: August 15, 1896
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Prague, Czechia
Died: October 26, 1957

Austro-Hungarian-American biochemist Gerty Cori is best-known for discovering the course of catalytic conversion of glycogen with her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori for which they jointly won the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. With this Gerty became the third woman to win a Nobel in science and the first to win it in this category.

 39 
Daphne Koller
(computer scientist, engineer)

Daphne Koller
3
Birthdate: August 27, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Jerusalem

 40 
Barbara Liskov
(Computer scientist)

Barbara Liskov
4
Birthdate: November 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

 41 

Kathryn D. Sullivan
3
Birthdate: October 3, 1951
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paterson, New Jersey, United States

 42 
Maria Mitchell
(Astronomer)

Maria Mitchell
3
Birthdate: August 1, 1818
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nantucket
Died: June 28, 1889
Maria Mitchell was motivated by her amateur astronomer father to venture into astronomy, and he taught her to operate several astronomical instruments. She later grew up to be America’s first professional female astronomer and is best remembered for discovering the comet 1847 VI, also known as Miss Mitchell's Comet.

 43 
Jessica Meir
(NASA astronaut)

Jessica Meir
0
Birthdate: July 15, 1977
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Caribou, Maine, United States

 44 
Amy Mainzer
(Astronomer)

Amy Mainzer
5
Birthdate: January 2, 1974
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mansfield, Ohio, United States

Astronomer Amy Mainzer has been associated with NASA's NEOWISE mission and specializes in asteroid detection. The Stanford and Caltech alumna now teaches at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona and has also appeared on the History Channel series The Universe and in several documentaries.

 45 
Shyamala Gopalan
(Progesterone receptor biology and applications to breast cancer)

Shyamala Gopalan
0
Birthdate: April 7, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: February 11, 2009

 46 
Valerie Thomas
(scientist and inventor)

Valerie Thomas
3
Birthdate: 1943 AD
Birthplace: Maryland, United States
After becoming one of the two female students in her university class to graduate in physics, Valerie Thomas joined NASA as a data analyst. While she oversaw the Landsat program, she is best remembered for inventing the illusion transmitter, which helped project a 3D optical illusion using concave mirrors.

 47 
Radia Perlman
(Computer Network Engineer)

Radia Perlman
3
Birthdate: December 18, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Portsmouth, Virginia, United States

 48 
Lynn Conway
(Transgender Activist & Computer Scientist Who Initiated The Mead-Conway VLSI Chip Design Revolution)

Lynn Conway
3
Birthdate: January 2, 1938
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mount Vernon, New York, United States

Michelle Thaller
3
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Waukesha

Apart from being the assistant director of science at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, astronomer Michelle Thaller also appears on shows such as The Universe on the History Channel. The Harvard alumna has also worked with Caltech. Apparently, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos had pushed her to study astronomy at 10.

 50 
Marie Maynard Daly
(Biochemist)

Marie Maynard Daly
4
Birthdate: April 16, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Corona, New York, United States
Died: October 28, 2003

Marie Maynard Daly was the first Black lady to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry in the U.S. She was inspired by her father, who had to drop out of Cornell due to lack of funds. A pioneer of biochemistry, Daly later introduced a scholarship for African-American students at Queens College.