Top 10 Famous American Scientists You Should Know
As we work to expand opportunities for women in science, it’s essential that we recognize those pioneering scientists who paved the way.
George Washington Carver rose from slavery to become one of America’s premier botanists, inventors, and teachers – discovering 300 uses for peanuts alone! Additionally, his research led to methods of soil conservation.
1. Marie Curie one of the Famous American Scientists
Marie Curie was an extraordinary physicist and chemist who played an invaluable role in discovering radioactive elements such as polonium and radium, earning two Nobel Prizes – in Physics and Chemistry respectively. She became the first woman ever to receive one, as well as being one of only a few people to have won prizes across two distinct sciences.
Her and Pierre worked with radioactive pitchblende mineral to discover and name polonium as well as discover that radium could help to destroy diseased cells – suggesting its possible medical applications.
Curie believed scientific research should serve the public good and advocated for women in science. She campaigned for using X-rays to treat injured soldiers during World War I.
2. Elizabeth Blackwell
Blackwell was initially motivated to pursue medicine after witnessing her dying friend lament that they could have benefitted more from having had female physicians during their care. Following private studies with sympathetic physicians, Blackwell applied for admission into medical schools but was rejected everywhere before finally being accepted at Geneva Medical College in upstate New York where she endured months of discrimination from the townspeople and male student body.
She revolutionized modern anatomy, dispelling centuries-old misconceptions about human physiology. Additionally, she identified diseases and promoted clean sanitary conditions.
Though Watson and Crick are widely credited with discovering the double helix, Rosalind Franklin provided crucial evidence of its structure using X-ray diffraction. Franklin’s work served as an early precursor of quantum mechanics while she is also recognized for developing photography’s first digital technology.
3. Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson was an environmental biologist and author. Her 1962 book Silent Spring highlighted the dangers posed by pesticides, leading to environmental activism which eventually lead to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Born in Pennsylvania and raised on a farm, she developed firsthand knowledge of nature and wildlife. After attending Pennsylvania College for Women she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1929 before attending Johns Hopkins University for graduate studies.
As she noticed the loss of bird life caused by pesticide spraying, she conducted research and wrote Silent Spring in order to alert the public to this risk. Although she faced lawsuits from chemical industry representatives, she stood firm with her warnings and helped foster environmental consciousness among her followers; she later passed away in 1964.
4. Maria Goeppert Mayer||Famous American Scientists
Maria Goeppert Mayer was born in 1906 to parents living in Gottingen when only one school for girls existed in her hometown. However, she made sure she studied hard, took the university entrance exam (one of only four other girls to take it) and progressed onto graduate school before becoming one of the top female physicists during her lifetime.
Soon after marrying Joseph Mayer, she joined Johns Hopkins University. Due to nepotism rules at Johns Hopkins, however, they could not hire her as a professor and instead allowed her to conduct volunteer research into applying quantum mechanics to chemical problems.
The Famous American Scientists Goeppert Mayer joined Harold Urey at Columbia University’s Substitute Alloy Materials Laboratory as an isotope separator, eventually moving with Teller to Los Alamos where she helped create nuclear bombs and created mathematical models of nuclei structures – for which she received part of a 1963 Nobel Prize alongside Hans Jensen and Eugene Wigner.
5. Mathilde Krim
Mathilde Krim’s multireligious background provided her with a distinct perspective on science and society. A biologist by profession, she converted to Judaism before moving to Israel where she pioneered research that eventually led to amniocentesis being introduced as a standard medical procedure.
Krim’s expertise in genetics and virology led her to tackle the AIDS epidemic head on, fighting stigma and fear while raising funds for research. She founded amfAR before passing away at age 84 on January 15, 2019.
She pioneered women in technology and her calculations were key in the first US manned space flights – John Glenn’s famous orbit around Earth included. Additionally, she established both the Anita Borg Institute and Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.
6. Jane Goodall
As a young girl, Goodall dreamt of witnessing wild animals in their natural environments. She saved money through various jobs to fund her trip to Africa; although initially, her work proved challenging due to frequent disappointments along the way. Yet her tenacity saw her through months of hard work with great success!
Her determination led her to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, where she spent years observing chimpanzees. Thanks to her observant eye and persistence, she made numerous ground-breaking discoveries – such as their use of tools and social relationships among them.
Goodall was responsible for improving chimpanzee care at medical research facilities and setting up various refuges for them. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots program, both of which encourage communities to protect wildlife while simultaneously encouraging ecological responsibility. In 2022 she was honored as a UN Messenger of Peace.
7. Mae C. Jemison
Famous American Scientists|| Jemison made history when she became the first African-American female astronaut, serving on Space Shuttle Endeavour’s weeklong mission in September 1992 before later founding The Jemison Group, an advanced technologies research, development, and marketing firm.
Jemison first dreamt of becoming an astronaut as a child after being inspired by actress Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek television series. Today she heads the 100 Year Starship project under United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make travel to another planet within 100 years a reality.
She has taught at multiple universities and speaks Russian, Japanese and Swahili fluently. Additionally, she enjoys dancing as well as skiing and photography – activities she finds particularly fulfilling. Finally, she is passionate about breaking barriers for women and people of color to pursue science careers.
8. Sally Ride
Famous American Scientists| Sally Ride won a place in NASA’s astronaut program after beating out 1,000 applicants for it in 1977, becoming America’s first woman in space upon blast-off aboard Challenger in 1983 and setting an iconic precedent. She spent time after leaving space exploration working at Stanford University and eventually at University of California San Diego doing research in nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering, serving on accident investigation boards for both Challenger and Columbia shuttle losses, and serving on accident boards to investigate their losses.
American physics may still be young compared to its European counterpart, yet has an exciting future ahead. New American physicists could come from elementary school students.
9. Marie Daly
Marie Daly was born on April 16th 1921 to parents who valued education. Her mother often read to her and fostered an appreciation of science that inspired Marie Daly to pursue a career in chemistry; which was achieved successfully. In 1947 she earned the first African American woman doctorate degree in chemistry and helped uncover the link between cholesterol levels and blocked arteries.
Daly’s studies encompassed the impact of sugars and nutrients on heart function. Starting in 1948 at Rockefeller Institute with Alfred Ezra Mirsky she began investigating protein construction within the body, then in 1955 moved on to Columbia with Quentin Deming’s chemical mechanics of heart attacks research. Furthermore she created a scholarship fund at Queens College dedicated to minority students studying chemistry or biochemistry.
10. John Glenn
Glenn is a highly decorated military pilot and NASA astronaut who brings to the Senate his strong belief that scientific research embodies America’s spirit of exploration. He championed legislation to clean up decades-old radioactive waste at nuclear weapons sites as well as working tirelessly towards making government more efficient.
Dalton was an outstanding chemist and a Famous American Scientist who co-discovered radium and polonium as well as formulating Dalton’s Atomic Theory. Along with other black women she initially worked in a segregated computing unit at NASA Langley Research Center; there she verified calculations made on an early computer for Project Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard as she manually verified them manually using a “checking computer.” Dalton also invented the breath-on-demand valve for SCUBA diving; as an accomplished marine biologist authored several popular books/films on ocean life; never let her speech impediments interfere with her work or career goals.#Famous American Scientists