Forgotten female scientists: five names you should know

Forgotten female scientists: five names you should know

Happy International Women’s Day 2017, love from Pi Science and Technology!

Wednesday the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, we’ve pulled together a handful of female scientists everybody should know; here they are in all their glory, along with some attempts to explain what they did. Unfortunately, history wasn’t always kind to these women and their amazing contributions to the scientific community. But here they are now, so listen up.

  1. Ada Lovelace

Sorry , who? 

Ada Lovelace – come on you know her! She was the world’s first computer programmer.

Nope sorry. When?

She was born in in 1815 and died of cancer in 1852. Her work wasn’t acknowledged until over a century later, in 1953.

Oh, so what did she actually do?

She created an algorithm for the computation of Bernoulli numbers (yes I had to look it up too). The long and short of it is she created the basis of the first ever algorithm designed for a computer… So she’s the first computer programmer!

2.Rosalind Franklin

Ok, wait, I have heard of her. Something to do with DNA?

Yep! She discovered that there were two forms of DNA and created X-Rays of the diffraction pattern of DNA (famously called Photo 51) which led Crick et al to discover the double helix structure and get the Nobel Prize.

 Knew it!

Yes indeed, but she also discovered the molecular structure of coal, and RNA viruses.

That’s pretty cool.

Yep – but most of her work wasn’t recognised until after her death in 1958, especially in the DNA stuff.

3) Shirley Jackson

The writer?

Nope, the physicist. Shirley Jackson was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT, and the second to earn a doctorate in Physics in the whole of the US.

Wow – when was this?

She earned the PhD in 1973.

Is she still around?

Yep – she’s the Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.





4) Elizabeth Blackburn

Nope. No idea.

She won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009?

Nope still stuck – sorry.

She discovered the telomerase, the enzyme which synthesises telomeres (the protective cap at the end of eukaryotic DNA).

Oh. Right. That’s pretty big.

Yep. She’s also pretty cool. She got kicked off Bush’s President’s Council for Bioethics for supporting human embryonic cell research.









5) Chien-Shiung Wu

Go on. Just tell me.

Wu was a nuclear physicist who helped separate Uranium metal into its isotopes. She’s probably most famous for the ‘Wu Experiment’.

The what?

The Wu Experiment proved that the conservation of parity in electromagnetic and strong interactions, did not apply in weak interactions.


It was very controversial at the time. But it did allow her to define left and right in terms of Physics. So, if an alien came down and didn’t know what we meant by it, you could use the Wu experiment do explain it to them. Perhaps.


Image Sources: WikipediaFlickr ,Wikimedia commons, Wikimedia commonsFlickr

Charlotte Anne