1. Hedy Lamarr
Lauded as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” film actress Hedy Lamarr earned our eternal gratitude when she drafted a “Secret Communications System” during WWII — technology still used by cell networks, Bluetooth gadgets, and Wi-Fi.
2. Ada Lovelace
Dubbed “the world’s first programmer,” Ada Lovelace wrote commands that could solve specific math problems for an early mechanical computer in 1843. She also predicted that computers could “compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music.”
3. Grace Hopper
A century after Ada Lovelace, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper became one of the first to program computers in WWII. She invented the compiler — an English to computer translator — and popularized “computer bug” after a moth shorted out a Mark II.
4. Stephanie Kwolek
rom body armor to fiber optic cables, Kevlar carries a variety of applications — and you can thank industrial chemist Stephanie Kwolek for producing the fiber in 1965. Five times as strong as steel and fire resistant, her invention is still invaluable today.
5. Annie Easley
Annie Easley didn’t have a college degree when she started working at NASA in 1955, but that didn’t stop her from creating programs that measured solar winds, optimized energy conversion, and controlled rocket boosters in a 34-year career.
6. Marie Curie
Of course, we couldn’t forget Marie Curie, the chemist and physicist whose groundbreaking work on radioactivity won her two Nobel Prizes — the first awarded to a woman. Today she remains one of the most famous female scientists of all time.
7. Mária Telkes
Not satisfied with developing saltwater stills, solar ovens, and “coolness”-storing air conditioners, Mária Telkes helped build the first solar-heated house in the 1940s — which managed to keep a cozy temperature through a “cold Massachusetts winter.”
8. Dorothy Hodgkin
Known as a founder of protein crystallography — that is, “the study of atomic and molecular structure” — Dorothy Hodgkin used X-rays to crack the structures of penicillin, insulin, and vitamin B12, which won her a well-earned Nobel Prize in 1964.
9. Katharine Burr Blodgett
The first woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University, Blodgett invented non-reflective glass in 1938 — which would later find use in cameras and windows. If you’re wearing glasses, you can partly thank Blodgett for the lenses.
10. Ida Henrietta Hyde
A champion for women scientists, Hyde invented a microelectrode capable of stimulating cell tissue, a device that later revolutionized her own field of science. In 1902, she became the first female member of the American Physiological Society.
11. Virginia Apgar
If you’re a nurse, you might know the Apgar score — a system for assessing the health of newborns. It came from Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist who did “more to improve the health of mothers [and] babies … than anyone in the 20th century.”