10 Greatest Women Physicists You Didn't Know

A look at the contributions of greatest women scientists in history.
10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Dirac, Feynman and we can go on and on. You all identify them very well as the heroes of physics and astronomy.

It is however a disappointing fact that the sheroes of physics and astronomy remain uncelebrated still. So, we feel it duty to bring to you a list of ten greatest women physicists.

10. Lisa Randall

Lisa researches particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, where she is a professor of theoretical physics. She contributed to the Randall–Sundrum model with Indian-American physicist Raman Sundrum.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

Randall-Sundrum model in physics describes the various aspects of particle physics, for instance, supersymmetry, in terms of a warped-geometry higher-dimensional universe. First published in 1999, this model of the universe has since generated thousands of citations.

Lisa explained her most acknowledged work at a non-technical level in the book, Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, which went on to become world's first successful book on theoretical physics by a female author.

9. Helen Quinn

Helen is an Australian-born particle physicist and educator known for contributions to both fields.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

Working with Howard Georgi and Steven Weinberg, Quinn showed how the three types of particle interactions which look very different as we see their impact in the world around us, become very similar in extremely high-energy processes.

Her most significant contribution to theoretical physics include the Peccei-Quinn theory which implies a matter-antimatter symmetry and the possible source of the dark matter that pervades the universe.

8. Jocelyn Bell

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an Irish astrophysicist who discovered the first radio pulsar, a highly-magnetized rotating neutron star, in 1967. She was a postgraduate student at the time of discovery.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

She helped in building the 16,000 m² radio telescope over two years and was the first person to notice the anomaly, sometimes reviewing as much as 29 meters of paper data per night.

Her discovery was recognized by the award of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics, but despite the fact that she was the first to observe the pulsars, Bell was excluded from the recipients of the prize.

7. Chien-Shiung Wu

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day
Chinese experimental physicist

She is best known for conducting the Wu experiment, which contradicted the most revered law of conservation of parity. This discovery resulted in her colleagues Lee and Yang winning the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics. Wu was not publicly honored until 1978.

6. Vera Rubin

American astronomer Vera Rubin uncovered the discrepancy between the predicted angular motion of galaxies and the observed motion, by studying galactic rotation curves.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

By observing the minor deviations from Hubble's law in galaxies, Rubin provided evidence for the existence of galactic superclusters. Her most significant discovery was providing the first evidence for dark matter.

Vera Rubin spent her life advocating for women in science and was known for her mentorship of aspiring women astronomers.

5. Lise Meitner and Andrea Ghez

Position 5th is a tie: Along with long-time collaborator, Otto Hahn, Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner led a small group of scientists who became the first to discover the nuclear fission of Uranium.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

Otto Hahn was recognized with 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry but Meitner's contributions overlooked. Today, nuclear fission is used to produce electricity in the nuclear power plants.

According to Physics Today, Meitner's exclusion from the most coveted award may well be summarized as a mixture of disciplinary bias, political obtuseness, ignorance, and haste.

Andrea Ghez is an American astronomer, who is known for her research on Milky Way galaxy. She has won the Nobel Prize for physics and is only the fourth woman to win the highest honors.

4. Donna Strickland

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day
Canadian physicist

Donna is a pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers and winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 2018 for the invention of chirped pulse amplification.

Its creation has enabled doctors to perform millions of corrective laser eye surgeries. She said that after developing the technique they knew it would be a significant discovery.

She became the third woman ever to be awarded Nobel Prize in Physics, after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963.

3. Maria Goeppert Mayer

Maria Goeppert was a German-born American scientist and Nobel prize winner in Physics (1963) for proposing the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

The nuclear shell model is a model of the atomic nucleus which uses the Pauli exclusion principle to describe the structure of the nucleus in terms of energy levels.

2. Emmy Noether

Emmy Noether was a German mathematician known for contributions to theoretical physics. She was described by Albert Einstein as the most important woman in the history of mathematics.

As one of the leading mathematicians of her time, she developed the theories of rings and fields in abstract algebra. In physics, Noether's theorem explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day

When she was recruited by University of Göttingen, one faculty member protested, "What will our soldiers think when they return to the university and find that they are required to learn at the feet of a woman?"

Completely unegotistical and free of vanity, she never claimed anything for herself, but promoted the works of her students above all. A teacher of such quality is not readily available these days.

1. Marie Curie

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day
Polish physicist and chemist

Marie Skłodowska Curie was denied admission to college because she was a woman, but she persisted, and went on to become the only person in history to win Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

Her achievements included the development of the theory of radioactivity, a term that she coined, techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements, polonium and radium.

10 greatest women physicists on international women's day
Pierre and Marie Curie

While a French citizen by marriage, Marie never lost her sense of Polish identity. She named the first chemical element she discovered, Polonium, after her native country.

She had famously said, "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, at whatever cost, must be attained."

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