Women have shaped the history of life sciences. To celebrate UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we take a look at some of the famous and influential women life scientists from throughout history.
Rachel Carson: An American marine biologist, her iconic 1962 book ‘Silent Spring’ brought attention to the dangers of synthetic pesticides accumulating in the natural ecosystem, and kick-started the global environmental movement.
Jane Goodall: Perhaps the most famous primatologist ever, this British OBE spent many years of her life in Tanzania studying man’s close relatives, and is considered the world’s number one expert on chimpanzees
Rosalind Franklin: It is often assumed that Watson and Crick were responsible for discovering the molecular structure of DNA, but in actual fact, much of their work was based on earlier research done by this English X-ray crystallographer, who successfully identified the double helix nature of DNA molecules.
Elizabeth Blackburn: This Australian-American Nobel Prize winner made incredible advances in our knowledge of the telomere – the structure that protects the ends of chromosomes, and co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres.
Barbara McClintock – This American geneticist made incredible advances in the field of genetics by studying maize crops, uncovering various processes such as genetic recombination, transposition, and gene regulation.
Dorothy Hodgkin – An American biochemist, she developed the technique of protein crystallography, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, being only the third woman in history to have received this (the previous two being Marie Curie, and her daughter Irène).
Mary Anning – An English fossil collector; despite having no formal education in science, she discovered a huge variety of Jurassic fossils along the coast of Lyme Regis, including never-before-identified species such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, and became one of the foremost figures in palaeontology at the time.