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Famous Women Scientists

Notable Women in Science, Medicine, and Math


British and American polls say that few people can name even one famous woman scientist. Here are some women in the sciences including medicine and mathematics. You may recognize some of these famous women scientists; others may be new to you and worth further exploring. They're listed alphabetically over several pages, though I put Marie Curie at the top because, let's face it, that's the one woman scientist most people know. Click through to the rest of the pages so you don't miss the others.

1. Marie Curie

Marie Curie
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Dates: November 7, 1867 - July 4, 1934

Known for:  Marie Curie was the:
• first well-known woman scientist in the modern world
• called the "Mother of Modern Physics" -- pioneer in research into radioactivity, a word she coined
• discoverer of and first to isolate polonium and radium; she established the nature of radiation and beta rays
• first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, first person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines:  (1903) Physics and Chemistry (1911)

2. Joy Adamson

Joy Adamson
Roy Dumont / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Dates: January 20, 1910 - January 3, 1980

Known for: Naturalist Joy Adamson wrote Born Free about raising a lion cub, Elsa, and releasing her back to the wild, part of her efforts in Kenya for conservation.

3. Maria Agnesi

Dates: May 16, 1718 - January 9, 1799

Known for: Maria Agnesi wrote the first mathematics book by a woman that still survives.  She was also the first woman appointed as a mathematics professor at a university.

4. Agnodice

Dates: 4th century BCE 

Known for: Agnodice, who may be mythical rather than historical, was a physician and gynecologist who dressed as a man because it was illegal for women to practice medicine.

Also known as Agnodike.

5. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Godefroy Durand/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dates: June 9, 1836 - December 17, 1917

Known for: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to successfully complete the medical qualifying exams in Great Britain and the first woman physician in Great Britain. She was also an advocate of women's suffrage and women's opportunities in higher education and became the first woman in England elected as mayor.

6. Mary Anning

Mary Anning and her fossils
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Dates: May 21, 1799 - March 9, 1847

Known for: Self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning was a British fossil hunter and collector. At age 12 she had found, with her brother, a complete ichthyosaur skeleton, and later made other major discoveries. Louis Agassiz named two fossils for her. Because she was a woman, the Geological Society of London would not permit her to make any presentation about her work.

7. Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar
Getty Images

Dates: June 7, 1909 - August 7, 1974

Known for: Virginia Apgar developed the Apgar Newborn Scoring System, increasing infant survival rates She was pioneer in anesthesiology including helping to raise the respect for the discipline; she warned that use of some anesthetics during childbirth negatively affected infants. Virginia Apgar also helped refocus the March of Dimes organization from polio to birth defects.

8. Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden, about 1939
Underwood Archives / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Dates: December 31, 1884 - October 18, 1966

Known for: Elizabeth Arden was the founder, owner and operator of Elizabeth Arden, Inc., a cosmetics and beauty corporation.  At the beginning of her career, she formulated the products that she then manufactured and sold.

9. Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey

Dates: August 8, 1863 - September 22, 1948

Known for: A nature writer and ornithologist, Florence Bailey popularized natural history and wrote a number of books about birds and ornithology, including several popular bird guides.

10. Clara Barton

Clara Barton
SuperStock / Getty Images

Dates: December 25, 1821 - April 12, 1912

Known for: Nurse Clara Barton is famous for her Civil War service and as the founder of American Red Cross.

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