Women who changed the scientific world

16 women who won the Nobel science prize…

Marie Curie


She was not only the 1st woman to win a Nobel, but also the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes. Her discovery of the elements, radium and polonium, with Professor Henri Becquerel and radioactivity earned her the Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) and later in Chemistry (1911).

Irène Joliot-Curie


Daughter of former winner Marie Curie, she shared it with her husband in Chemistry (1935) for discovering that radioactivity could be artificially produced.

Gerty Theresa Cori


The first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine (1947) for her  discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen  into sugar and vice versa (carbohydrate metabolism).

Fun fact: The reason that Gerty started her research, is because her diabetic father asked her to find a cure for his disease.

Maria Goeppert Mayer


For her discovery of  nuclear shell structure during World War II, she won it in Physics (1963). She was the first woman to receive the award in 60 years.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin


Her determination, by X-ray techniques, of the structure of  penicillin followed by the mapping of vitamin B(12) essential to combating pernicious anemia, earned her a Nobel in Chemistry (1964)

Fun fact: She pursued her work and five years later, she discovered the structure of insulin.

Rosalyn Yalow

She won it in Medicine (1977) for the development of radioimmunoassay; is a sensitive technique that measures very tiny amounts of a substance (notably insulin) in the blood (liquid).

Barbara McClintock


McClintock worked in plant cytogenetics.
Cytogeneticists did everything as traditional geneticist (breeding successive generations of an organism and observing differences), plus they used microscopes to investigate genetics at the cellular level.
She improved staining techniques and proved Thomas Morgan ‘s theory of Chromosomal crossover.
She earned Nobel in Medicine (1983) for her discovery of mobile genetic elements.
Physical traits were being controlled by Dissociators and Activators (later known as gene controllers). The Dissociator could cause insertions, deletions and relocations of genes in the chromosome, but only in the presence of the Activator. This explained why even though every cell has the same genetic code, yet they are different.
Mobile genes could jump around within chromosomes and switch physical traits on or off.
Her work uncovered antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a possible cure for African sleeping sickness.

Rita Levi-Montalcini


She discovered nerve growth factor; as when tumors from mice were transplanted to chick embryos they induced potent growth of the chick embryo nervous system . An extremely important discovery for Alzheimer’s disease.

Thus, she earned Nobel in Medicine (1986).

Fun fact: Her academic career ended abruptly in 1938 when Benito Mussolini barred Jews from pursuing academic and professional careers. So she worked from a laboratory in her home instead.

Another fact: She died in 2012, at 103 years old.

Gertrude B. Elion


She won it in Medicine (1988) for inventing the leukemia-fighting drug and its derivative that blocks the body’s rejection of foreign tissues.

Fun fact: Her grandfather died of stomach cancer when she was 15; so she decided to spend her life looking for a cure as she believed nobody should suffer that much.

Christiane Volhard


She helped explain birth defects in humans and the genetic control of early embryonic development by studying fruit flies. She won Nobel in Medicine (1995).

Linda B. Buck


She won it in Medicine (2004) for her discovery of the structure of the olfactory system and its mechanism.

Fun fact: People are able to recognize and remember more than 10,000 odors.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi


She earned it in Medicine (2008) for her discovery of HIV. Her research has also revealed the methods by which the virus spreads and its connection to AIDS.

Fun fact: Gertrude B. Elion developed Imuran/AZT, the first immune-suppressive agent, which is used in the treatment of AIDS. What an amazing lady!

Ada E. Yonath

Ada B&W

She earned Nobel in Chemistry (2009) for her studies of the structure and function of the ribosome using cryo bio-crystallography and the discovery of the structural basis for antibiotic selectivity.

Why is that important?

We know how many antibiotics work, why some bacteria are drug-resistant and now we use this knowledge in research labs to design more effective drugs .

Fun fact: Despite her family’s poverty, her parents sent her to an affluent school. Later,she attended high school but she couldn’t afford tuition, so the school allowed her to attend if she gave math lessons to other students.

Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider

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The first Nobel award shared by more than one woman was in Medicine (2009). The 2 ladies earned it for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres (the end caps of chromosomes) and the enzyme telomerase.

Fun fact: Carol studied under the supervision of Elizabeth at the University.

Another fact: Greider worked hard for 12 hours or more a day. She even indicated the mysterious telomere-protecting enzyme on Christmas Day,1984.

May-Britt Moser

May Britt Moser22

In Medicine (2014), for her discovery of the cells that constitute a positioning system  in the brain (a system for navigation inside our brains)

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2 Responses

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