Famous Female Scientists & Inventors

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

From bullets to cameras, and cancer to clothing. Female scientist and inventors have contributed a lot to our world. This lesson describes just a select few for you in various fields so you can see how they've shaped our world.

What Can't Women Do?

Stopping bullets, taking pictures, discovering elements, and so much more. This was the work of some of the most famous and important female scientists and inventors throughout history. There's plenty more, of course. This lesson will go over just some of them and their major contributions to society.

Curie, Kwolek, & Crosby

Perhaps no female scientist is more famous than Marie Curie. Alongside her husband, Pierre, she discovered two very important elements, that of radium and polonium. Their work, involving dangerous radioactive substances, formed a large foundation for later research into nuclear physics and into application such as the use of radiation therapy to kill cancer.

Marie Curies notes are still so radioactive they have to be kept in lead-lined boxes.
Marie Curie

Curie is noted for being:

  • the first woman to win a Nobel prize,
  • the only woman to have won the Nobel prize twice (and the first person to do so in general),
  • the only person to have won the Nobel Prize in more than one scientific field.

Marie Curie died of aplastic anemia, a condition where the bone marrow's blood-cell producing capability is decreased or destroyed, most likely due to all the radioactive substances she worked with over the years.

While her name is not as famous, inventor Stephanie Kwolek is a name you should never forget after this lesson, for she is the inventor of Kevlar, the same stuff used in bulletproof vests. That's not where the use of her invention stops though. The discovery of this type of fiber is used in military helmets, sports equipment, fiber-optic cables, and even work gloves. For her work, Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, one of a select few number of women to have received this distinction.

While Kwolek's fibers are used for bulletproof vests, Mary Phelps Jacob, later known as Caresse Crosby, used different fibers for a different kind of application. She is the inventor of the modern bra. You might think that's not all that great an invention but think about the act that before the modern bra, many women wore a very restrictive corset beneath their clothing, one that was uncomfortable and made breathing difficult.

Franklin, Blodgett, & Grandin

Perhaps second only to Marie Curie in fame, Rosalind Franklin was another extremely important female scientist. She was a chemist that received hear PhD in physical chemistry from the prestigious Cambridge University. Her work in crystallography and X-ray diffraction was applied to gaining very important insights into the structure of DNA. It was thanks in great part to her work that famed scientists James Watson and Francis Crick were able to finally solve the mystery of the structure of DNA.

Katharine Blodgett was an inventor whose work spanned a wide variety of important fields. Her research into monomolecular coatings helped develop important things, like gas masks used in war and the de-icing of airplane wings we take for granted nowadays. Perhaps her most famous invention was that of non-reflective glass, which has been perfected by later scientists and has been essential in its use in everything from cameras to car windshields to computer screens in front of you now to eyeglasses you might be wearing.

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