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This is a timeline of women in science, spanning from ancient history up to the 21st century. While the timeline primarily focuses on women involved with natural sciences such as astronomy, biology, chemistry and physics, it also includes women from the social sciences (e.g. sociology, psychology) and the formal sciences (e.g. mathematics, computer science), as well as notable science educators and medical scientists. The chronological events listed in the timeline relate to both scientific achievements and gender equality within the sciences.
The Tapputi Belatekallim tablet
c. 2700 BCE: In Ancient Egypt, Merit-Ptah practised medicine in the pharaoh's court.
c. 150 BCE: Aglaonice became the first female astronomer to be recorded in Ancient Greece.
1st century BCE: A woman known only as Fang became the earliest recorded Chinese woman alchemist. She is credited with "the discovery of how to turn mercury into silver" - possibly the chemical process of boiling off mercury in order to extract pure silver residue from ores.
c. 975 CE: Chinese alchemist Keng Hsien-Seng was employed by the Royal Court. She distilled perfumes, utilized an early form of the Soxhlet process to extract camphor into alcohol, and gained recognition for her skill in using mercury to extract silver from ores.
1561: Italian alchemist Isabella Cortese published her popular book The Secrets of Lady Isabella Cortese. The work included recipes for medicines, distilled oils and cosmetics, and was the only book published by a female alchemist in the 16th century.
1642: Martine Bertereau, the first recorded woman mineralogist, was imprisoned in France on suspicion of witchcraft. Bertereau had published two written works on the science of mining and metallurgy before being arrested.
1650: Silesian astronomer Maria Cunitz published Urania Propitia, a work that both simplified and substantially improved Johannes Kepler's mathematical methods for locating planets. The book was published in both Latin and German, an unconventional decision that made the scientific text more accessible for non-university educated readers.
1656: French chemist and alchemist Marie Meurdrac published her book La Chymie Charitable et Facile, en Faveur des Dames (Useful and Easy Chemistry, for the Benefit of Ladies).
1668: After separating from her husband, French polymath Marguerite de la Sablière established a popular salon in Paris. Scientists and scholars from different countries visited the salon regularly to discuss ideas and share knowledge, and Sablière studied physics, astronomy and natural history with her guests.
1685: Frisian poet and archaeologist Titia Brongersma supervised the first excavation of a dolmen in Borger, Netherlands. The excavation produced new evidence that the stone structures were graves constructed by prehistoric humans - rather than structures built by giants, which had been the prior common belief.
1690: German-Polish astronomer Elisabetha Koopman Hevelius, widow of Johannes Hevelius, whom she had assisted with his observations (and, probably, computations) for over twenty years, published in his name Prodromus Astronomiae, the largest and most accurate star catalog to that date.
1693-1698: German astronomer and illustrator Maria Clara Eimmart created more than 350 detailed drawings of the moon phases.
1699: German entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, the first scientist to document the life cycle of insects for the public, embarked on a scientific expedition to Suriname, South America. She subsequently published Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, a groundbreaking illustrated work on South American plants, animals and insects.
1702: Pioneering English entomologist Eleanor Glanville captured a butterfly specimen in Lincolnshire, which was subsequently named the Glanville fritillary in her honour. Her extensive butterfly collection impressed fellow entomologist William Vernon, who called Glanville's work "the noblest collection of butterflies, all English, which has sham'd us". Her butterfly specimens became part of early collections in the Natural History Museum.
1702: German astronomer Maria Kirch became the first woman to discover a comet.
c. 1702-1744: In Montreal, Canada, French botanist Catherine Jérémie collected plant specimens and studied their properties, sending the specimens and her detailed notes back to scientists in France.
1732: At the age of 20, Italian physicist Laura Bassi became the first female member of the Bologna Academy of Sciences. One month later, she publicly defended her academic theses and received a PhD. Bassi was awarded an honorary position as professor of physics at the University of Bologna. She was the first female physics professor in the world.
1748: Swedish agronomistEva Ekeblad became the first woman member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Two years earlier, she had developed a new process of using potatoes to make flour and alcohol, which subsequently lessened Sweden's reliance on wheat crops and decreased the risk of famine.
1751: 19-year-old Italian physicist Cristina Roccati received her PhD from the University of Bologna.
1760: American horticulturalist Martha Daniell Logan began corresponding with botanic specialist and collector John Bartram, regularly exchanging seeds, plants and botanical knowledge with him.
1762: French astronomer Nicole-Reine Lepaute calculated the time and percentage of a solar eclipse that had been predicted to occur in two years time. She created a map to show the phases, and published a table of her calculations in the 1763 edition of Connaissance des Temps.
1782-1791: French chemist and mineralogist Claudine Picardet translated more than 800 pages of Swedish, German, English and Italian scientific papers into French, enabling French scientists to better discuss and utilize international research in chemistry, mineralogy and astronomy.
c. 1787-1797: Self-taught Chinese astronomer Wang Zhenyi published at least twelve books and multiple articles on astronomy and mathematics. Using a lamp, a mirror and a table, she once created a famous scientific exhibit designed to accurately simulate a lunar eclipse.
1789: French astronomer Louise du Pierry, the first Parisian woman to become an astronomy professor, taught the first astronomy courses specifically open to female students.
c. 1796-1820: During the reign of the Jiaqing Emperor, astronomer Huang Lü became the first Chinese woman to work with optics and photographic images. She developed a telescope that could take simple photographic images using photosensitive paper.
1797: English science writer and schoolmistress Margaret Bryan published A Compendious System of Astronomy, including an engraving of herself and her two daughters. She dedicated the book to her students.
1815: English archaeologist Lady Hester Stanhope used a medieval Italian manuscript to locate a promising archaeological site in Ashkelon, becoming the first archaeologist to begin an excavation in the Palestinian region. It was one of the earliest examples of the use of textual sources in field archaeology.
1830-1837: Belgian botanist Marie-Anne Libert published her four-volume Plantae cryptogamicae des Ardennes, a collection of 400 species of mosses, ferns, lichen, algae and fungi from the Ardennes region. Her contributions to systemic cryptogamic studies were formally recognized by Prussian emperor Friedrich Wilhelm III, and Libert received a gold medal of merit.
1833: English phycologistsAmelia Griffiths and Mary Wyatt published two books on local British seaweeds. Griffiths had an internationally respected reputation as a skilled seaweed collector and scholar, and Swedish botanist Carl Agardh had earlier named the seaweed genus Griffithsia in her honour.
1836: Early English geologist and paleontologistEtheldred Benett, known for her extensive collection of several thousand fossils, was appointed a member of the Natural History Society of Moscow. The society - which only admitted men at the time - initially mistook Benett for a man due to her reputation as a scientist and her unusual first name, addressing her diploma of admission to "Dominum" (Master) Benett.
1843: During a nine-month period in 1842-43, English mathematician Ada Lovelace translated Luigi Menabrea's article on Charles Babbage's newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes. Her notes were labelled alphabetically from A to G. In note G, she describes an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to compute Bernoulli numbers. It is considered the first published algorithm ever specifically tailored for implementation on a computer, and Ada Lovelace has often been cited as the first computer programmer for this reason. The engine was never completed, so her program was never tested.
1843: British botanist and pioneering photographer Anna Atkins self-published her book Photographs of British Algae, illustrating the work with cyanotypes. Her book was the first book on any subject to be illustrated by photographs.
1862: Belgian botanist Marie-Anne Libert became the first woman to join the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium. She was named an honorary member.
1863: German naturalist Amalie Dietrich arrived in Australia to collect plant, animal and anthropological specimens for the German Godeffroy Museum. She remained in Australia for the next decade, discovering a number of new plant and animal species in the process, but also became notorious in later years for her removal of Aboriginal skeletons - and the possible incitement of violence against Aboriginal people - for anthropological research purposes.
1875: Hungarian archaeologist Zsófia Torma excavated the site of Turda?-Lunc? in Hunedoara County, today in Romania. The site, which uncovered valuable prehistoric artifacts, became one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Europe.
c. 1880: Self-taught German chemist Agnes Pockels began investigating surface tension, becoming a pioneering figure in the field of surface science. The measurement equipment she developed provided the basic foundation for modern quantitative analyses of surface films.
1892: American psychologist Christine Ladd-Franklin presented her evolutionary theory on the development of colour vision to the International Congress of Psychology. Her theory was the first to emphasize colour vision as an evolutionary trait.
1897: American cytologists and zoologists Katharine Foot and Ella Church Strobell started working as research partners. Together, they pioneered the practice of photographing microscopic research samples and invented a new technique for creating thin material samples in colder temperatures.
1900: American botanist Anna Murray Vail became the first librarian of the New York Botanical Garden. A key supporter of the institution's establishment, she had earlier donated her entire collection of 3000 botanical specimens to the garden.
1900: Physicists Marie Curie and Isabelle Stone attended the first International Congress of Physics in Paris, France. They were the only two women out of 836 participants.
1901: American Florence Bascom became the first female geologist to present a paper before the Geological Survey of Washington.
1904: American geographer, geologist and educator Zonia Baber published her article "The Scope of Geography", in which she laid out her educational theories on the teaching of geography. She argued that students required a more interdisciplinary, experiential approach to learning geography: instead of a reliance on textbooks, students needed field-trips, lab work and map-making knowledge. Baber's educational ideas transformed the way schools taught geography.
1906: Russian chemist Irma Goldberg published a paper on two newly-discovered chemical reactions involving the presence of copper and the creation of a nitrogen-carbon bond to an aromatic halide. These reactions were subsequently named the Goldberg reaction and the Jourdan-Ullman-Goldberg reaction.
1909: Danish physicist Kristine Meyer became the first Danish woman to receive a doctorate degree in natural sciences. She wrote her dissertation on the topic of "the development of the temperature concept" within the history of physics.
1912: American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt studied the bright-dim cycle periods of Cepheid stars, then found a way to calculate the distance from such stars to Earth.
1912: Canadian botanist and geneticist Carrie Derick was appointed a professor of morphological botany at McGill University. She was the first woman to become a full professor in any department at a Canadian university.
1913: Izabela Textorisová, the first Slovakian woman botanist, published "Flora Data from the County of Turiec" in the journal Botanikai Közlemények. Her work uncovered more than 100 previously unknown species of plants from the Turiec area.
1914-1918: During World War I, a team of seven British women chemists conducted pioneering research on chemical antidotes and weaponized gases. The project leader, Martha Whiteley, was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her wartime contributions.
1914: British-born mycologist Ethel Doidge became the first woman in South Africa to receive a doctorate in any subject, receiving her doctorate of science degree from the University of the Good Hope. She wrote her thesis on "A bacterial disease of mango".
1916: Chika Kuroda became the first Japanese woman to earn a bachelor of science degree, studying chemistry at the Tohoku Imperial University. After graduation, she was subsequently appointed an assistant professor at the university.
1920: Louisa Bolus was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa for her contributions to botany. Over the course of her lifetime, Bolus identified and named more than 1,700 new South African plant species - more species than any other botanist in South Africa.
1923: María Teresa Ferrari, an Argentine physician, earned the first diploma awarded to a woman by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris for her studies of the urinary tract.
1925: Mexican-American botanist Ynes Mexia embarked on her first botanical expedition into Mexico, collecting over 1500 plant specimens. Over the course of the next thirteen years, Mexia collected more than 145,000 specimens from Mexico, Alaska, and multiple South American countries. She discovered 500 new species.
1932: Michiyo Tsujimura became the first Japanese woman to earn a doctorate in agriculture. She studied at the Tokyo Imperial University, and her doctoral thesis was entitled "On the Chemical Components of Green Tea".
1940: Turkish Archaeologist, Sumerologist, Assyriologist, and writer Muazzez ?lmiye Ç. Upon receiving her degree in 1940, she began a multi-decade career at Museum of the Ancient Orient, one of three such institutions comprising Istanbul Archaeology Museums, as a resident specialist in the field of cuneiformtablets, thousands of which were being stored untranslated and unclassified in the facility's archives. In the intervening years, due to her efforts in the deciphering and publication of the tablets, the Museum became a Middle Eastern languages learning center attended by ancient history researchers from every part of the world.
1941: American scientist Ruth Smith Lloyd became the first African-American woman to receive a PhD in anatomy.
1943: British geologist Eileen Guppy was promoted to the rank of assistant geologist, therefore becoming the first female geology graduate appointed to the scientific staff of the British Geological Survey.
1947: American biochemist Marie Maynard Daly became the first African-American woman to complete a PhD in chemistry in the United States. She completed her dissertation, entitled "A Study of the Products Formed by the Action of Pancreatic Amylase on Corn Starch" at Columbia University.
1949: Botanist Valida Tutayug [az] became the first Azerbaijani woman to receive a PhD in biological studies. She went on to write the first national Azerbaijani-language textbooks on botany and biology.
1952: American computer scientist Grace Hopper completed what is considered to be the first compiler, a program that allows a computer user to use a human-readable high-level programming language instead of machine code. It was known as the A-0 compiler.
1955: Japanese geochemist Katsuko Saruhashi published her research on measuring carbonic acid levels in seawater. The paper included "Saruhashi's Table", a tool of measurement she had developed that focused on using water temperature, pH level, and chlorinity to determine carbonic acid levels. Her work contributed to global understanding of climate change, and Saruhashi's Table was used by oceanographers for the next 30 years.
1955-1956: Soviet marine biologist Maria Klenova became the first woman scientist to work in the Antarctic, conducting research and assisting in the establishment of the Mirny Antarctic station.
1956: Canadian zoologist and feminist Anne Innis Dagg began pioneering behavioural research on wild giraffes in South Africa in Kruger National Park. She researched and published on feminism and anti-nepotism laws at academic institutions in North America.
1960: British primatologistJane Goodall began studying chimpanzees in Tanzania; her study of them continued for over 50 years. Her observations challenged previous ideas that only humans made tools and that chimpanzees had a basically vegetarian diet.
1967: South African radiobiologist Tikvah Alper discovered that scrapie, an infectious brain disease affecting sheep, did not spread via DNA or RNA like a viral or bacterial disease. The discovery enabled scientists to better understand diseases caused by prions.
1976: Filipino-American microbiologist Roseli Ocampo-Friedmann traveled to the Antarctic with Imre Friedmann and discovered micro-organisms living within the porous rock of the Ross Desert. These organisms - cryptoendoliths - were observed surviving extremely low temperatures and humidity, assisting scientific research into the possibility of life on Mars.
1977: Canadian-American Elizabeth Stern published her research on the link between birth control pills - which contained high levels of estrogen at the time - and the increased risk of cervical cancer development in women. Her data helped pressure the pharmaceutical industry into providing safer contraceptive pills with lower hormone doses.
1980: Nigerian geophysicist Deborah Ajakaiye became the first woman in any West African country to be appointed a full professor of physics. Over the course of her scientific career, she became the first female Fellow elected to the Nigerian Academy of Science, and the first female dean of science in Nigeria.
1985: After identifying HIV as the cause of AIDS, Chinese-American virologist Flossie Wong-Staal became the first scientist to clone and genetically map the HIV virus, enabling the development of the first HIV blood screening tests.
1988: American scientist and inventor Patricia Bath (born 1942) became the first African-American to patent a medical device, namely the Laserphaco Probe for improving the use of lasers to remove cataracts.
1992: Edith M. Flanigen became the first woman awarded the Perkin Medal (widely considered the highest honor in American industrial chemistry) for her outstanding achievements in applied chemistry. The medal especially recognized her syntheses of aluminophosphate and silicoaluminophosphate molecular sieves as new classes of materials.
1997: Lithuanian-Canadian primatologist Birut? Galdikas received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement for her research and rehabilitation work with orangutans. Her work with orangutans, eventually spanning over 30 years, was later recognized in 2014 as one of the longest continuous scientific studies of wild animals in history.
2000: Venezuelan astrophysicist Kathy Vivas presented her discovery of approximately 100 "new and very distant" RR Lyrae stars, providing insight into the structure and history of the Milky Way galaxy.
2006: Merieme Chadid became the first Moroccan person and the first female astronomer to travel to Antarctica, leading an international team of scientists in the installation of a major observatory in the South Pole.
2006: American computer scientist Frances E. Allen won the Turing Award for "pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimizing compilers and automatic parallel execution". She was the first woman to win the award.
2007: Using satellite imagery, Egyptian geomorphologist Eman Ghoneim discovered traces of an 11,000-year-old mega lake in the Sahara Desert. The discovery shed light on the origins of the largest modern groundwater reservoir in the world.
2008: American-born Australian Penny Sackett became Australia's first female Chief Scientist.
2008: American computer scientist Barbara Liskov won the Turing Award for "contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing".
2010: Marcia McNutt became the first female director of the United States Geological Survey.
2011: Kazakhstani neuroscience student and computer hacker Alexandra Elbakyan launched Sci-Hub, a website that provides users with pirated copies of scholarly scientific papers. Within five years, Sci-Hub grew to contain 60 million papers and recorded over 42 million annual downloads by users. Elbakyan was finally sued by major academic publishing company Elsevier, and Sci-Hub was subsequently taken down, but it reappeared under different domain names.
2011: Taiwanese-American astrophysicist Chung-Pei Ma led a team of scientists in discovering two of the largest black holes ever observed.
2018: British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell received the special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her scientific achievements and "inspiring leadership", worth $3 million. She donated the entirety of the prize money towards the creation of scholarships to assist women, underrepresented minorities and refugees who are pursuing the study of physics.
^Dazinger, Walter (27 January 2014). "Preisträger des Haitinger-Preises 1905-1936"(PDF) (in German). Institut für Angewandte Synthesechemie, Vienna, Austria: Die Ignaz-Lieben-Gesellschaft Verein zur Förderung der Wissenschaftsgeschichte. p. 3. Archived from the original(PDF) on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 2016.
^Meitner, L.; Frisch, O. R. (1939). "Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction". Nature. 143 (3615): 239. Bibcode:1939Natur.143..239M. doi:10.1038/143239a0.. Meitner is identified as being at the Physical Institute, Academy of Sciences, Stockholm. Frisch is identified as being at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Copenhagen.
^Frisch, O. R. (1939). "Physical Evidence for the Division of Heavy Nuclei under Neutron Bombardment". Nature. 143 (3616): 276. Bibcode:1939Natur.143..276F. doi:10.1038/143276a0. [The experiment for this letter to the editor was conducted on 13 January 1939; see Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb pp. 263, 268 (Simon and Schuster, 1986).]
^Rubin, Vera; Ford, Jr., W. Kent (February 1970). "Rotation of the Andromeda Nebula from a Spectroscopic Survey of Emission Regions". The Astrophysical Journal. 159: 379-403. Bibcode:1970ApJ...159..379R. doi:10.1086/150317.