Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

History books have not always told the story of all the people. In fact, most of the time half the population has been ignored. Yet, can anyone deny that throughout civilization and even before, women have been discovering new ways of treating ailments, new uses for plants, new ways to use materials for housing, farming and cooking?

We have been lucky enough to discover the names of some of the women who have made difference and more textbooks have been including the stories of these women. Read some of these books to learn more.

Ancient Women: See long list at Wikipedia

  • Aemilla Hilaria (300-363): physician
  • Hypatia (born 350): mathematician and astronomer, worked on cones, hyperbolas, parabolas and ellipses.

Women in Medicine

  • Elizabeth Blackwell ( 1821-1910): first female American doctor
  • Mary Walker (1832-1919): first woman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, for her work as a surgeon during the Civil War.
  • Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906): first female member of Academy of Medicine
  • Anna Wessels Williams (1863-1954): isolated strain of the diphtheria bacillus used to develop antitoxin.
  • Eliza Ann Grier (1864-1902):  An emancipated slave, she was the first African-American woman licensed to practice medicine in Georgia.
  • Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915): the first American Indian woman in the United States to receive a medical degree
  • Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill (1876-1952): second American Indian woman in the United States to hold an M.D. degree
  • Alice Ball (1892-1916): developed treatment for Hansen disease.
  • Gerty Radnitz Cori (1896-1957):
  • Margaret D. Craighill (1898-1877): first woman doctor to receive an Army commission
  • Helen Taussig (1989-1986): pediatric heart surgery
  • Elsie Widdowson (1906-2000): investigated nutrition and metabolism
  • Virginia Apgar (1909-1974): designed and introduced the Apgar Score, the first standardized method for evaluating a newborn's transition to life outside the womb.
  • Gertrude Belle Elion (1919-1999): Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1988, with George Hitchings; drug treatments for leukemia and cancer
  • Jane Wright (1919-2013): cancer therapies

Women in Mathematics and Computers

  • Marie Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799): wrote a book dealing with differential and integral calculus.
  • Ada Lovelace (1815-1852): worked on early concepts of computer programs
  • Florence Nightingale (1820-1910): used statistics to convince others of the need for medical reform.
  • Sophie Kowalevski (1850-1891): Russian mathematician worked with analysis, partial differential equations and mechanics.
  • Emmy Noether (1882-1935): famous for her teaching, she worked on abstract algebra, seeing relationships that others could not.
  • Mary Cartwright (1900-1992):  solved problem of WWII radio amplifiers and discovered phenomena that later became “chaos.”
  • Grace Hopper (1906-1992): worked on making computers programmer- and application-friendly

Women in Astronomy

  • Maria Mitchell (1818-1889): Discovered a comet, first female member American Academy of Arts and Sciences; astronomy professor at Vassar. 
  • Williamina Fleming  (1857-1911): Curator of Astronomical Photographs at Harvard
  • Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941): Developed classification system of stars
  • Inge Lehmann (1888-1993): Discovered Earth’s Inner Core
  • Marie Tharp (1920-2006): Proved the Theory of Continental Drift
  • Yvone Brill (1924-2013): Developed thrusters to keep satellites in orbit.
  • Valentina Tereshkova (1937- ): First woman in space.
  • Sally Ride (1951-2012): First American woman in space

Women of NASA

  • Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson (1918-): Calculated trajectories for Project Apollo and the Space Shuttle.
  • Dorothy Vaughan (1920-2008): head of West computing at NACA/NASA and FORTRAN programmer
  • Mary Jackson (1921-2005): Only African-American female aeronautical engineer in 1950s.
  • Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville (1924-): 2nd African-American woman to earn a Phd in Math. Created computer software for NASA.  
  • Melba Roy Mouton (1929-1990): Headed NASA female mathematicians and computer programmers at Goddard Space Flight Center.
  • Annie Easley (1933 -2011): Computer Scientist
  • Eileen Collins ( 1956- ): First female Space Shuttle commander.
  • Cady Coleman (1960- ): American chemist, a former United States Air Force officer, and a former NASA astronaut.

Women Inventors

  • Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923): mathematician and engineer. Discovered information on electricity. One of two women awarded Britain’s Hughes Medal.
  • Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000): inventor of spread spectrum technology used to prevent messages from being intercepted
  • Ruth Benerito (1916-2013): chemist; invented wrinkle-resistant cotton
  • Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014): chemist. invented Kevlar


Women in Sciences (Physics, Genetics, Biology and Environment)

  • Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717): artist and naturalist whose observations about insects changed entomology.
  • Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794-1871): marine biologist. Invented the aquarium.
  • Mary Anning (1799-1847): “Greatest Fossilist the world has ever known.”
  • Maria Curie (1867-1934): physicist; two Nobel Prizes (one in physics and one in chemistry) for work with radiation and radioactivity.
  • Ellen Swallow Richards (1842-1911): chemistry; first woman admitted to MIT; worked with sanitary chemistry to study water supplies.
  • Nettie Stevens (1861-1912): biologist; sex determination by chromosomes
  • Alice Hamilton (1869-1970): medicine. Studies occupational health and toxicology
  • Alice Evans (1881-1975): microbiologist; discovered dangers of raw milk (which is why we now pasteurize milk.)
  • Tilly Edinger (1897-1967): paleontologist; studied fossil brains and the evolution of brains.
  • Hilde Mangold (1898-1924): embryologist; discovered which cells are directing development of embryos.
  • Charlotte Auerbach (1899-1994): geneticist; discovered how chemical substances such as mustard gas cause gene mutations
  • Barbara McClintock (1902-2012): geneticist; studied effects of gene shifting; Nobel Prize in Physiolog
  • Rachel Carson (1907-1964): ecologist; warned world of the effect of synthetic chemical pesticides
  • Salome Gleucksohn Waelsch (1907-2007): ): developmental geneticist; made discoveries in mammalian development and cancer; National Medal of Science
  • Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994): chemist; Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1964; x-ray crystallography
  • Ruth Patrick (1907-2013): environmentalist; worked on taxonomy of algae and effect of stream pollution.
  • Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012): biochemist; made discoveries about growth factors that have helped with understanding cancers and other medical problems
  • Rosalind Franklin (1920-2007): molecular biologist; contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA
  • Anne McLaren (1927-2007): developmental biologist; work has led to advancements in in vitro fertilization.
  • Lynn Margulis (1938-2011): evolutionist; demonstrated how adaptations can come about through symbiosis.
  • Hope Jahrens (1969- ):geochemist and geobiologist; analyzes fossil forests