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Introducing 10 famous female scientists – Mary, Jane and Rosalind!

 Jane Godall Jane Goodall

Some time ago I shared quotes by 10 famous female scientists in a post that became quite popular.

A little later I introduced the first three of these impressive and extraordinary Ladies in more detail. Because every female scientist has her own story, her own achievements, struggles and personality.


Today I want to introduce 3 more!



Mary Anning (1799 – 1847)

Mary Anning, the ‘oldest’ of my scientists, discovered fossils at the so called Jurassic Coast, now a World Heritage Site at the Dorset and East Devon Coast in the UK. One of her discoveries was the first complete Ichthyosaur fossil, a 2 to 4 m long marine “fish lizard” which first appeared approximately 245 million years ago. Her discovery was over 200 years ago.

Mary Anning was much more than a collector of fossils. She read and understood all of the scientific literature she could find. The moment she had found a bone or fossil she knew exactly what tribe they belonged to.

Her reputation was high, even at that time being a woman and having a ‘low’ social status, Mary Anning was not allowed to be part of the scientific community or to join the Geological Society of London.

Knowing that (with a little bit of bitterness) but being also smart, she started to make money selling her fossils and opened the famous shop, Anning’s Fossil Depot.

163 years after her death, in 2010, the Royal Society finally included Mary Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.



Jane Goodall (born 1934)

Jane Goodall, my youngest female scientist, is also the only one who is still alive. She is a scientist and activist, an incredibly optimistic woman who loves people and animals. She is an expert on chimpanzees, and studied their social and family interactions for 45 years in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.

While working in Tanzania, she soon realized that it is important to the chimpanzee’s survival to include the needs of local people and involve them in projects as real partners. This is why her conservation projects are always community-centered and include sustainable development which benefits the local people.

Jane Goodall was one of Leakey’s Angels (also nicknamed ‘The Trimates’). Dr. Louis S. B. Leakey, a famous anthropologist and paleontologist from Cambridge University, UK, personally decided on three female researchers to study primates in Africa. It was Jane Goodall who studied chimpanzees, Dian Fossey who studied gorillas and Birutė Galdikas who studied orangutans. All three became important scholars in the field of primatology.

Jane Goodall is also a UN Messenger of peace, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program (the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program with around 150,000 members in more than 130 countries).

As an activist Jane Goodall is encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment we all share.




Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958)

Rosalind Franklin is best known for her work on DNA, where she used x-ray diffraction images of DNA which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. However, who actually discovered what and when on the long journey to getting to know our DNA, is a story full of controversy.

According to Francis Crick her data was the key to formulate Francis Crick and James Watson’s important model of the structure of the DNA. Crick and Watson published their model in the famous magazine ‘Nature’ on April 25, 1953 describing the double-helical structure of DNA. In a footnote they mentioned that they “have been stimulated by a general knowledge of Franklin and (her colleague) Wilkins’s ‘unpublished’ contribution.”

Since she was extremely cautious, Rosalind Franklin had waited and wanted to provide far greater evidence before publishing a model.


After working on DNA, Rosalind Franklin led pioneering work on the tobacco mosaic virus that infects plants as well as the polio virus. She died of ovarian cancer in 1958 at the early age of 37.

Four years after her death Watson and Crick together with Wilkins received the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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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.

Carl D'Agostino - October 11, 2014

Very important scientific contributions

    simplyilka - October 12, 2014

    Thanks Carl! They sure are 🙂

Sherri - October 14, 2014

Fascinating read about these three amazing women Ilka. Of course, Mary Anning lived just down the road from me…well, about 40 minutes away in Lyme Regis! We live in Somerset, right on the border of Dorset and its Jurassic coastline. I remember seeing that sign on her house and shop. All these women deserve the recognition they now receive. Very enjoyable post my friend, lovely to see you here again 🙂
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    simplyilka - October 15, 2014

    Thanks Sherri! Isn’t it great to live where history happened?

    I am glad you enjoyed the post. Like you said these women deserve the recognition they receive now – all over the world. Take care my friend 🙂

Ella - October 15, 2014

Absolutely interesting! My heart feels with Rosalind Franklin who died so early and so deserved the Noble Prize as well. But she loved science and what she was doing. That is fab and more than some of us an say about their work!

    simplyilka - October 15, 2014

    Thanks Ella! I agree that Rosalind Franklin deserved and probably would have been awarded with – the Noble Prize as well.

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