Ten awesome female scientists

A donor requested that I list the “top ten most awesome female scientists.” I probably should have done this earlier in the night when I still had some mental faculties left, but here’s an attempt for female scientists that I happen to like, in no particular order:

  1. Rosalind Franklin
  2. Jane Goodall
  3. Linda Buck
  4. Barbara McClintock
  5. Elizabeth Blackburn
  6. Martha Cowles Chase
  7. Elizabeth Blackwell
  8. Grace Hopper
  9. Marie Curie
  10. Lynn Margulis (if we can get in a time machine and forget that she became an AIDS denialist, ugh)

…The fact that this list was incredibly hard for me to make is really, really sad.

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  1. Kaotik4266 says

    No love for Ada Lovlace? Although I suppose she was more a mathematician than a scientist.

  2. Brian says

    If it’s “awesome” we’re looking for in particular, then the list is incomplete without Lise Meitner, who helped work out the mechanics of nuclear fission while on the run from the Nazis.

  3. Suido says

    Hurrah for Elizabeth Blackburn, Australia’s first female Nobel prize winner. The two leading newspapers in Melbourne and Sydney had markedly different reactions to the award:

    The Age/Sydney Morning Herald – front page.
    Herald Sun/Daily Telegraph – buried around page 15ish.

    No prizes for guessing which is the right wing, Murdoch controlled rag.

  4. slc1 says

    How about the following:

    Chien-Shiung Wu
    Lisa Randall
    Maria Goeppert Mayer
    Lisa Meitner

  5. says

    It’s funny, I can easily name dozens of awesome female scientists. However it is much more difficult to name dozens of FAMOUS female scientists.

  6. says

    +1 Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

    Pleasingly, the most recent episode of the BBC’s flagship science programme Horizon was presented by Lucie Green, Helen Czerski and Liz Bonnin. Let’s hope this wasn’t a one-off.

  7. anatman says

    how about hypatia of alexandria, florence nightingale (much more than a nurse), and emmy noether, whose eponymous theorem is essential to physics just to name female mathematicians?

  8. embertine says

    *Amazing Grace fistbump*

    She is on my list of people I would want at my dream dinner party, along with Archimedes, Feynman, Hypatia, Boudicca and Leonardo.

    Factoid: if you put “leonardo” into Google, it comes up with di Caprio before da Vinci.


  9. Carlos says

    What about Helen Taussig who pretty much created the field of pediatric cardiology?

  10. says

    I would add Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, who won the Nobel Prize for her contributions to early developmental genetics, and Lise Meitner, who with her nephew, Otto Fritsch, first described the mechanism of nuclear fission in uranium.

  11. Confused says

    I see your Lise Meitner and raise you one Rita Levi-Montalcini, who, excluded from the establishment by being a female Jew in Mussolini’s Italy, set up a developmental biology lab *in her attic*, and did pioneering work on neurogenesis during WWII.

    Although I’m a bit torn about looking to developmental biology for great female scientists (and there have been many) because it’s traditionally been condescendingly treated as an “acceptable” academic discipline for women to be interested in (a bit like obstetrics and gynaecology in medicine). Doesn’t mean I don’t think Nicole Le Douarin is any less awesome though.

  12. Ray says

    I can’t believe you left Susan Blackmore off that list! I’ve learned more about consciousness and neuroscience from her website and books than anyone else except maybe Dan Dennett.

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