Marie Curie and Beyond

June 25th marked the 112th anniversary of Marie Curie’s announcement of her discovery of radium, a critical component in the development of x-rays and radiology. For her work on radioactivity, Curie earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.

Curie’s inspiring story helped pave the way and inspire many future women in STEM. While Currie may have been the first, she was not the last. There have been many women since Curie that have made a tremendous impact in science. Between 1901 and 2014, 46 women in total have been award the Nobel Prize. Of the 46 winners, 16 have been for STEM related achievements. While the following women may not be household names, they have impact our way of life and drastically changed the field of science.

Here are a few women who paved the way in chemistry and physics:

Irène Joliot-Curie
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1935
Continuing the work of Marie Curie, her daughter was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1935 for the synthesis of new radioactive elements. Her work included the study of natural and artificial radioactivity, transmutation of elements, and nuclear physics.

Maria Goeppert Mayer
Nobel Prize in Physics 1963
Mayer was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1963 for her discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure. Mayer worked on everything from the Manhattan Project to the development of the GM unit.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1964
While spending time at the University of Oxford as a Research Fellow, Hodgkin discovered the three-dimensional structures of many biomolecules, including the structure of penicillin in 1945. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964 for her research on structures of biochemical substances. Five years after receiving the award, Hodgkin discovered the structure of insulin.

Ada E. Yonath
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009
Yonath’s work in pioneering cryo bio-crystallography has helped us understand how many antibiotics work, thus allowing for the development of more effective drugs. She earned the Nobel Prize in 2009 for her studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.

Nobel Prize Awarded Women in Physiology or Medicine:

  • Gerty Theresa Cori (1947)
  • Rosalyn Yalow (1977)
  • Barbara McClintock (1983)
  • Rita Levi-Montalcini (1986)
  • Gertrude B. Elion (1988)
  • Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (1995)
  • Linda B. Buck (2004)
  • Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (2008)
  • Carol W. Greider (2009)
  • Elizabeth H. Blackburn (2009)
  • May-Britt Moser (2014)
[Sources: Mental Floss, Women You Should Know, Nobel Prize]


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