- Maria Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934)


1891 student at Sorbonne Faculty of Sciences.

1893 Sorbonne degree in physics,

1894 degree in math. 

1895 marries Pierre Curie, lab chief at School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry,

1897 paper on magnetism of tempered steel;   

       interested in discovery of X-rays 1896 by Wilhelm and Henri Becquerel's work on radiation emissions in uranium salts;


Theoretical assumption that radioactivity was an atomic property. 

1898 Curies identify two new elements - radium & polonium

Marie first to measure atomic weight of uranium;

Develop technique for isolating radium


- 1898 Paris Academy of Sciences awarded Marie prize for "lengthy work" on magnetism in steel & on radioactivity - said "The research of Madame Curie deserves the encouragement of the Academy"

– wrote to Pierre "I congratulate you very sincerely & present my respectful compliments to your wife."


1900-1906 taught physics at girls' high school

1903 defended doctoral dissertation,

1903 Curies & Henri Bequerel Nobel Prize for physics

"devoted fellow laborer in her husband's researches";

Was "the woman to abandon her traditional household occupations to give herself over to abstract studies which until now have been the privilege of the man?”  Worried about "bizarre heroines who abdicate feminine character altogether", said "the woman who works is obliged to neglect her household and children". 

Marie "our lady of uranium".


1906 Pierre killed

Marie appointed to his vacant chair at Sorbonne, with rank of assistant professor;


Sought election to French Academy of Sciences in 1911, denied, criticized as having "pushed her taste for recompense & honors a little too far - needed lesson in patience & modesty".

1911 scandal with Paul Langevin,

1911 Marie awarded Nobel Prize for chemistry

"There is no connection between my scientific work and... private life", said proud of scientific work on radioactivity.


1914 finishes building new Institute of Radium in Paris,

Marie director of section on physical & chemical research. 

WWI Marie director of Red Cross Radiology Service,



1920 fundraising tour; American women raised one hundred thousand dollars to buy radium;

headlines "Madame Curie plans to end all cancers"


Toured campuses of women's colleges - donations to Marie Curie Radium Fund;

Guest of honor at American Association of University Women;


1932 bad fall in lab

Research leadership moves to daughter Irene, who married physicist & chemist Frederic Joliot. 

1934 the Joliot-Curies vital experiment creating artificial radioactive isotope by bombarding aluminum nucleus with particles;

1934, Marie died of leukemia.


1935 Irene & Frederic receive Nobel Prize in Chemistry

1955 Irene dies of leukemia.




Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)

   enter Cornell Coll. of Agriculture 1919. 

   (Mendel's laws of heredity rediscovered 1900)

   undergrad degree 1923,

   Cornell botany graduate department

   distinguishing chromosomes of maize

   1927 PhD, continued as instructor.


   National Research Council fellowship,

   Rockefeller fellowship;

   McClintock "actively resents the fact that she is not given scientific opportunities.  She feels that this is largely on account of her sex, since she has brains enough to realize that she is much more able than most of the men with whom she comes in contact." 

"She still looks & acts more boy than girl.  She isn’t interested in money; says she has bought no clothes for years & looks it." 

1936 assistant professor Univ. Missouri


1944 elected to National Academy of Science

1945 president Genetics Society.

1951 paper at Cold Spring Harbor – genes shift position on chromosomes between one generation & next –"transposable elements."

"I don't want to hear a thing about what you're doing - it may be interesting, but I understand it's kind of mad." "That woman is either crazy or a genius."

early 1970s other evidence of "jumping genes"

1983 Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology




crystallography: structural analysis of crystals

X-ray photography

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

   St. Paul's Girls' School,

   1938 entered Cambridge,

   Ph.D 1945 in physical chemistry,

   1947 researcher at Sorbonne in Paris,

   papers on crystallography of carbons. 

   1951 Kings College, London - biologist Maurice Wilkins

   Franklin designed own microcamera to take high-resolution photos of single fibers of DNA

discovered DNA two different forms; figured out bases faced inward, made exact measurements of distances between base pairs. 

   -  James Watson & Francis Crick. 

   1953 paper Nature Watson & Crick

   1956 Franklin diagnosed with cancer

   1962 Watson, Crick & Wilkins Nobel Prize

   1968 Watson The Double Helix  Rosy "refusing to think of herself as Maurice's assistant."




"trimates" – founding mothers of modern field primatology;


Jane Goodall – chimps

Dian Fossey – gorillas

Birute Galdikas – orangutans


paleo-anthropologist Louis Leakey & wife Mary


Goodall began work 1960 in Gombe, shores Lake Tanganyika

New observations – signs of affection, meat-eaters, tool-users 1965 PhD Cambridge,

1986 The Chimpanzees of Gombe results of 25 years of observations,

1970s major research center,

Stephen Jay Gould: her work "will rank forever as one of the great achievements of scientific dedication combined with stunning results." 


Dian Fossey 1966 work in Congo, then Rwanda, set up Karisoke Center for Mountain Gorilla Research.

New observations –  male gorillas killing infants to bring females into heat again; 

Public fight for conservation; private fight against poachers;

By 1975, only 260 gorilla left out of 480

1983 Fossey murdered at research site. 


Galdikas Indonesian rain forest 1971.