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Introducing 10 famous female scientists – the first three!


In my last post I shared quotes by 10 famous female scientists. Today I want to introduce the first three of these impressive and extraordinary Ladies.

Marie Currie (1867 – 1934)

She was the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize and the first female professor at the University of Paris. At that time many scientists found it difficult to believe that a woman could be capable of in depth scientific work.


Marie Curie received two Noble Prizes, one in Physics (in 1903, shared with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel) and one alone in 1911 in Chemistry for the discovery of Polonium (element 84 of the periodic system) and Radium (element 88 of the periodic system). Her husband Pierre Curie had died in 1906 in a road accident.


She was born in Warsaw, Poland, and became later a French citizen. However, she never lost her sense of Polish identity. That’s why she named the first element that she discovered ‘Polonium’, after her native country.


Marie Curie’s daughter Eve writes a sweet story in the biography about her mother. Marie and Pierre loved to sit in the dark in their laboratory, holding hands and watching the beauty of the illumination of radium, not knowing about the dangers of radioactivity at that time.


Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968)

Lise Meitner was an Austrian, later Swedish, physicist. She worked on radioactivity and nuclear science. Together with Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner was part of the team in Berlin that discovered nuclear fission. Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944 for their discovery. For reasons of security, Jewish Lise was living in Sweden at this time. She is often mentioned as one of the most glaring examples of women’s scientific achievement overlooked by the Nobel committee.

Being invited to work at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project to create the atomic bomb, Lise Meitner said

“I will have nothing to do with a bomb!’


Element 109 of the periodic system is named in her honor ‘Meitnerium’. It was discovered at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research where I worked for 4 years (as described in my post How tumor therapy became personal).




Gertrude Elion (1918 – 1999)

Gertrude Elion was an American biochemist and pharmacologist. In 1988, years after her official retirement, she was awarded the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discoveries of important principles for drug treatment (shared with James W. Black and George H. Hitchings).


A life changing moment was her grandfather’s death of cancer when Gertrude was only 15. She became a hard working woman who dedicated her life to science. She never married nor had any children. She said

“I had no specific bent toward science until my grandfather died of cancer. I decided nobody should suffer that much.”


While working with Hitchings, Getrude developed the first drugs to fight leukemia, herpes, and AIDS. Using innovative research methods Gertrude oversaw the adaptation of Azidothymidine (AZT), the first drug used for the treatment of AIDS.





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Hi I'm Ilka, a self-development writer and lovable scientist with a knowledgeable expertise in brain science. I help people realize the power our behavior has on our brain - and the other way around.

navigator1965 - June 19, 2014

Science itself does not discriminate amongst those who try to divine its secrets.
navigator1965 recently posted…Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Holdings Powers That Be AccountableMy Profile

    simplyilka - June 20, 2014

    Absolutely right Nav! Science itself is neutral. It is us humans who make the differences. And it is us humans who use science either for the good or for the bad 🙂

Maneesha Malhotra - June 20, 2014

I was such so stupid that I wasn’t aware about “FEMALE SCIENTISTS” while Being a Female too ! Scientists are so great. I must say scientists are such like a god those always do something unique for the earth. They are so special people on earth. Thanks admin for making aware about “Female Scientists”
Maneesha Malhotra recently posted…How to Exercise at Home – Funny Girl Exercise PicMy Profile

    simplyilka - June 21, 2014

    Thanks Maneesha! I am glad you liked the post and you learned something about female scientists. By now, it is common to have female scientists working equally to male scientists. 🙂

Mi Muba - June 20, 2014

Hi Ilka
Another wonderful and very inspirational post.
This is the neglected aspect of science history of the world where male scientists are well known but many people still believe women in this field could not have reached that much height as male counterparts did.
I am sure this series post of ten female scientists will make people learn how females have contributed a lot in scientific development and discovering and inventing for the benefits of humanity. Looking forward to your next post on the same series.
Mi Muba recently posted…Reduce your carbon footprint up to 20% by next weekendMy Profile

    simplyilka - June 20, 2014

    Thanks Mi Muba!

    I also hope that people will see how much females have contributed to science discoveries. It think that women were generally seen as less capable in the past. Luckily this has changed a lot 🙂

Carl D'Agostino - June 20, 2014

Great history lesson.

    simplyilka - June 20, 2014

    Thanks a lot Carl!

    I am glad you liked it 🙂

Ella - June 21, 2014

Hi Ilka!

Thanks for the informative post. I loved the quotes last week and am happy to learn more about the female scientists.

Honestly, I did not know about Lise Meitner. Or the fact that there is an element called Meitnerium. But I am glad I do now. Can’t wait to read about the other ones.

    simplyilka - June 22, 2014

    Thanks Ella!

    I think lots of people don’t know about the ‘newer’ elements of the periodic system. These new elements don’t live very long, just a few seconds. A lot of schools still don’t teach them.

    I am personally glad that Lise Meitner was honored with an ‘element’, even the recognition came after her death 🙂

Sherri - June 25, 2014

So interesting as always this Ilka. I learn something new every time I come over to your fascinating blog. My grandmother was a nurse in the 20’s and used to talk a lot about the work of Marie Currie. Incredibly inspiring women, all 🙂
Sherri recently posted…WPC: Between The Trees On A Croatian IslandMy Profile

    simplyilka - June 26, 2014

    Thank you so much Sherri for your kind and touching words.

    Yes, I could write pages about Marie Currie. I know that she was operating a mobile x-ray truck during the I. World War to help the soldiers. 🙂

Jagbir Sandhu - August 18, 2014

I am very happy that I found this during my search for something concerning this. I have read your article completely and i have gained a lot from it. I m a new reader and happy to have found you and I look forward to reading more posts in the future. I’m impressed by your blogging and I hope that others will learn from you as I do. Thank you again for all your help.
Excellent blog, Thanks so much for sharing.

Jagbir Sandhu

Introducing 10 famous female scientists – Mary, Jane and Rosalind! simplyilka - October 19, 2014

[…] little later I introduced the first three of these impressive and extraordinary Ladies in more detail. Because every female scientist has her […]

Introducing 10 famous female scientists - the finally final four! simplyilka - February 26, 2015

[…] scientists’ I then introduced first Marie Curie, Lise Meitner and Gertrude Elion in the post ‘Introducing 10 famous female scientists: the first three!’ The series continued by introducing Mary Anning Jane Goodall and Rosalind Franklin in […]

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