Women Who Changed History In Science, Politics, And Culture

Throughout history, women have encountered pervasive obstacles and experienced gender discrimination that permeated various aspects of their lives. Amid a worldwide endeavor to inspire greater interest among girls in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM), it is essential to recognize and applaud the remarkable achievements of the past and present STEM superstars.

Image Credit: NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons & AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Katherine Johnson (1918-2020)

Katherine Johnson, a remarkable Black mathematician, made vital contributions as one of the first African American women scientists at NASA. Her expertise in calculating spacecraft trajectories was instrumental in enabling the first American astronauts to orbit the Earth and reach the moon. The film “Hidden Figures” (2016) beautifully captures Johnson’s extraordinary life and pioneering work at NASA.

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Marie Curie, a pioneering physicist, and chemist, made groundbreaking discoveries in radioactivity. She identified radium and polonium as new elements and led pioneering research on radiation’s impact on tumors. Curie established the renowned Curie Institute, a leading cancer research and radiation therapy center in Paris. Notably, she remains the only person and the first woman, to win two Nobel Prizes in different scientific fields: physics and chemistry.

Image Credit: National Archives at College Park , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917)

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first female doctor in England, broke through barriers to pave the way for women in medicine. She founded a women’s medical school, appointed women to leadership positions, and became the first female dean of a medical school and the first female mayor in England.

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, pioneered opportunities for women in science and mathematics. As an astronaut, she operated the robotic arm on Space Shuttle missions, launched satellites into space, and later founded the EarthKam Project for students. In 2003, she was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.