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.
Marie Curie and Pierre Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, herself a brilliant scientist, won the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with her husband, Joliot-Curie, for discovering artificial radioactivity. She was also one of the first three female French government members. She tragically died of leukemia caused by exposure to radiation.
Lise Meitner was an Austrian-Swedish physicist best remembered for her contributions that led to the discoveries of nuclear fission and the element protactinium. Nicknamed the German Marie Curie by Albert Einstein, Lise Meitner became the second woman in the world to receive a doctorate in physics in 1905. In 1997, chemical element 109 meitnerium was named in her honor.
Donna Strickland is a Canadian optical physicist who is considered a pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers. In recognition of her research on the practical implementation of chirped pulse amplification, she was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, together with Gérard Mourou. She is currently a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Eva Ekeblad was a Swedish countess, agronomist, salon hostess, and scientist. In 1746, she discovered a method to make flour and alcohol from potatoes which earned her popularity. Her discovery made her the first female inductee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1748.
French mathematician Sophie Germain had used the pseudonym M. Le Blanc to get hold of notes from the École Polytechnique, as being a woman, she was not allowed to attend the institute. She later contributed to the number theory and also pioneered the elasticity theory. She died of breast cancer.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland. As a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars. She graduated from the University of Glasgow and pursued an academic career. In 2018, she received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of radio pulsars. She donated the three million dollars she received as prize money.
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.
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.
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.
Known as Bolognese Minerva, Laura Bassi became the first woman physics professor to have taught at a European university, when she started teaching at the University of Bologna. A child prodigy, she excelled in Latin and math at age 5. She was also the first lady with a doctorate in science.
Lene Hau is a Danish physicist and educator currently serving as the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. She has done major research into novel interactions between ultracold atoms and nanoscopic-scale systems. She also often speaks at international conferences. She is a recipient of the George Ledlie Prize and the Richtmyer Memorial Award.
French nuclear-physicist Hélène Langevin-Joliot comes from the distinguished Curie family, which includes five Nobel Laureates, including her maternal-grandparents Marie and Pierre Curie, her parents Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, and her maternal uncle-in-law Henry Labouisse. Hélène serves as a director of research at CNRS and as professor of nuclear physics at the Institute of Nuclear Physics at the University of Paris.
Fabiola Gianotti made headlines when she became the first woman director-general at CERN. The daughter of a geologist father, she gained an interest in science after reading about Marie Curie. The Italian particle physicist, who played a major role in the Higgs boson discovery, is also a trained ballerina.
Medical physicist Rosalyn Sussman Yalow was the second woman and the first American woman to earn the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Best known for her research on the radioimmunoassay, or RIA, technique, she studied science at a time when women weren’t hired for science jobs.
Belgian-born physicist Ingrid Daubechies was a prodigy of sorts and had started dealing with complicated mathematical concepts before turning 6. She grew up to work at the AT&T Bell Laboratories and also taught at Princeton. She is best known for her research on wavelets and image-compression technology.
Chiara Nappi is an Italian physicist with research experience in the areas of mathematical physics, particle physics, and string theory. After receiving a degree in physics from the University of Naples, she moved to US to carry out academic research. She has been a professor of physics in multiple institutions. Besides scientific research, she often writes on women in science.
Hertha Ayrton was a British engineer, physicist, mathematician, and inventor. She is remembered for her work on electric arcs and ripple marks in sand and water, for which she was awarded the Hughes Medal by the Royal Society. As a woman in the 19th century, she had to face innumerable struggles in her career. She was also a passionate suffragist.
Particle physicist and Harvard professor Melissa Franklin is known for her research on the Higgs boson and the proton-proton collisions caused by the Large Hadron Collider. Interestingly, she had quit high school to form a parallel school with her friends. The Stanford alumna is also associated with the ATLAS experiment.
A professor of ecological economics and industrial ecology, Julia Steinberger had been associated with the universities of Leeds and Zurich before joining the University of Lausanne. The daughter of Nobel-winning physicist Jack Steinberger, Julia has also led the award-winning research project Living Well Within Limits and supports Greta Thunberg’s climate activism.
Tatyana Afanasyeva was a physicist and mathematician best remembered for making important contributions to the fields of statistical thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. She is also known as the wife of Austrian physicist Paul Ehrenfest with whom she collaborated often. Tatyana Afanasyeva published several papers on various topics like entropy and randomness.
Born to a teacher father, Sarah Frances Whiting created history by becoming the first physics professor of Wellesley College, an institute that revolutionized higher education for women, and also established America's second undergraduate and first women’s physics lab. She remains a pioneer of women’s education in science.
An electrical engineer professor at the Princeton Institute of Materials, Claire F. Gmachi is best known for her research on quantum devices, such as lasers, and their use in the health and environment sectors. She also heads the education program of MIRTHE, a group of 6 universities, as its director.