4 Women of History: International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The 11th of February 2023 is International Day of Women and Girls in Science! Here at Kent-Teach we wanted to take the opportunity to recognise some of the inspirational women of history who have shaped science as we know it today. Here are four of our personal favourites (however, it was incredibly tough to pick just four!).

(Image from 'Mr. Grey' in Crispin Tickell's book 'Mary Anning of Lyme Regis' (1996)

1) Mary Anning, Palaeontologist (1799–1847)

“I have always admired most those who lead with their eyes, like Mary Anning, for they seem more aware of the world and its workings.” – Tracy Chevalier

Mary Anning grew up in Lyme Regis, which is now referred to as the Jurassic Coast. Although she had a rough start in life but she did not let it stop her from following her dreams. From as young as five she joined her father in fossil collecting where her passion sparked. When she was 12 years old, Mary discovered a 5.2 metre long skeleton and believed it was of an extinct creature. Many people thought it was a large crocodile and dismissed her claims (Darwin’s origin of species would not come into play for another 49 years) however, we now know that she was the first to discover an Ichthyosaurus. Mary became well known for discovering, cleaning and preserving fossils, however was never credited in there finds – despite many male palaeontologists coming to her for help. Geology and palaeontology were becoming increasingly popular and many people flocked to museums and exhibits to see the remains of these rare creatures. Mary is an inspiration, despite not being recognised for her work within her lifetime, she never gave up and continued to make extraordinary discoveries. Today the Natural History Museum in London showcases several of Mary Anning's spectacular finds, including her ichthyosaur, plesiosaur and pterosaur. Much like they did two centuries ago, her fossils continue to captivate visitors from around the world. 

(Colourised image from cypartners.co.uk)

Marie Curie, Physicist (18671934)

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a female scientist who used physics to save lives. Marie Curie developed a talent and passion for science from an early age and went on to study physics (at the time, women in Poland where she lived were not allowed to attend university – however Marie did not let this stop her.) She moved to Paris to study and follow her dreams. With her husband, she discovered two new elements: polonium (which she named after her home country) and radium. In 1903, she shared in winning the Nobel Prize in physics for her work on radiation, which is energy given off as waves or high-speed particles. She was the first woman to win any kind of Nobel Prize. She went on to win another Nobel Prize in 1911 for Chemistry and is still to this day the only person to win two Nobel Prizes in different subjects. Marie went on to use her ground-breaking understanding of radiology to shape the medical world as we know it – through X-Rays! Marie continues to inspire scientists today to help others.

(Colourised image by Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Rosalind Franklin, Chemist (1920–1958)

"Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment." Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British scientist best known for her crucial contributions to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Graduating in physical chemistry at Newnham College, University of Cambridge, she began to conduct research in physical chemistry. But the advance of World War II changed her course of action: not only did she serve as a London air raid warden, but in 1942 she gave up her fellowship in order to work for the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, where she investigated the physical chemistry of carbon and coal for the war effort. After the war, Franklin moved to Paris where she perfected her skills in X-ray crystallography, which would become her life's work. Throughout her 16-year career, Franklin published steadily: 19 articles on coals and carbons, 5 on DNA, and 21 on viruses. Her scientific achievements in coal chemistry, virus structure and DNA structure research were considerable. Her peers in those fields acknowledged this during her life and after her death. It is likely that her work would have earned awards and other professional recognition, had she lived to continue it.

(Image from blackpast.org)

Patricia Bath, Ophthalmologist and Inventor (1942–2019)

"Do not allow your mind to be imprisoned by majority thinking. Remember that the limits of science are not the limits of imagination." – Patricia Bath

Dr. Patricia Bath was the first female African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. In 1976, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that "eyesight is a basic human right." By 1983, Bath had helped create the Ophthalmology Residency Training program at UCLA-Drew, which she also chaired, becoming - in addition to her other firsts, the first woman in the nation to hold such a position. In 1986, Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, improving treatment for cataract patients. Dr. Bath's greatest passion continued to be fighting blindness through to her death in May 2019. Her "personal best moment" occurred on a humanitarian mission to North Africa, when she restored the sight of a woman who had been blind for thirty years by implanting a keratoprosthesis. She stated; "The ability to restore sight is the ultimate reward.”

To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are holding a competition on our Facebook Page launching on Monday the 13th of February 2023, giving you the chance to win a case of Kate Pankhurst’s incredible book: Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories, for your school. Full competition details can be found on our Facebook page from Monday!

If these amazing female scientists have inspired you, then become a science teacher where you can inspire generations of young people to make the world a better place and who knows you might be teaching the next Marie Curie! 








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