Women in Science and Mathematics

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Although there have been relatively few females in science and mathematics historically, modern women are increasingly pursuing careers in science. The number of females earning advanced degrees in science and math has significantly increased since 1980, and if male interest in science and engineering degrees continues to lag, women are poised to overtake men in earning STEM degrees.[1]

Here are a few noteworthy female scientists and mathematicians:

  • Florence Bascom—First female American geologist,
  • Jocelyn Bell—Astronomer, discovered the first pulsar.
  • Gerty Theresa Cori—Received the Nobel prize for her discovery of the process by which glycogen (a carbohydrate used by animals for energy storage, analogous to starch in plants) is broken down into lactic acid.[2]
  • Edith Flanigen— Developed molecular sieves and invented the process for forming synthetic emeralds, important to early lasers.
  • Rosalind Franklin— Used the process of x-ray crystallography to determine the molecular shape of DNA, her work was then used by Watson and Crick to form the Double Helix theory of DNA structure. Died before she could be awarded the Nobel Prize along with Watson and Crick.
  • Elaine Fuchs—Biochemist whose research on the molecular chemistry of skin revolutionized dermatology.
  • Sophie Germain—Mathematician who did important work in number theory and proved Fermat's last theorem for all , one of the best results until Wiles.
  • M. Katharine Holloway & Chen Zhao— co-developed protease inhibitors, antiviral chemicals used to extend the lives of AIDS victims.
  • Hypatia—First notable female mathematician, born in 370 AD, provided revolutionary commentary on several ancient mathematical works, such as "Apollonius".
  • Ada Lovelace—Collaborated with Charles Babbage on what was arguably the first computer (though it was never built) and arguably the first computer programmer (though there is controversy on this.)
  • Mary Lyon— Pioneered lab experience as an integral part of undergraduate chemistry education after founding one of the first women's colleges in the United States.
  • Barbara McClintock— Made groundbreaking developments in the study of the cytogenetics and the visualization of the corn genome, received the Nobel prize in Medicine for her efforts in 1983.
  • Lise Meitner—Physicist, discovered nuclear fission, with Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassner. Namesake of Meitnerium.
  • Emmy Noether — laid the groundwork for commutative algebra, one of two mathematicians whose name has become so ubiquitous in modern usage that it is spelled in lowercase.
  • Ida Noddack (physicist)
  • Nettie Maria Stevens—Ended the debate on sex determination through her research on the X and Y chromosomes.


  1. http://sites.nationalacademies.org/xpedio/groups/pgasite/documents/webpage/pga_049141.pdf
  2. http://nndb.com/people/144/000128757/