Trailblazing Women in Science

This February 11th, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Akshaya Patra recognizes the contributions women have made to the scientific field of study.  Throughout history, women have had to break through glass ceilings to lead groundbreaking research and make discoveries that have revolutionized the scientific world.

Let’s pay homage to some of these trailblazing women in this month’s blog solely dedicated to women in science!

Marie Curie

Born in 1867, in Warsaw, the daughter of a secondary school teacher, Marie Curie is best known for her discovery of polonium & radium and advocating for the use of radium in medicine.   

After obtaining her Licenciateships in Physics and the Mathematical Sciences, she succeeded her husband to become Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences at Sorbonne University, the first woman to ever hold such a position.  She was also appointed Director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris which was founded in 1914.

Because of her contributions, several awards were conferred upon her in honorary science, medicine and she received honorary law degrees & memberships of learned societies throughout the world.  Pierre, her husband, and Marie were awarded half of the Nobel Prize in 1903 for their study into spontaneous radiation.  In 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work in radioactivity.  

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison, born in 1956, is an American physician and the first African American woman to become an astronaut.  In 1992, she spent a week orbiting the Earth in the space shuttle Endeavour.

She was introduced to science by her uncle and soon grew to develop interests in anthropology, archaeology, evolution and astronomy.  After graduating high school in 1973, at the age of 16, she entered Stanford University where she received degrees in chemical engineering and African American studies.  In 1977, she entered medical school at Cornell University where she pursued her interest in international medicine.  This was the beginning of her illustrious career.

She started off as a general practitioner in Los Angeles and then became a medical officer with the Peace Corps in West Africa.  After returning to the US, she applied to NASA to become an astronaut.  After her maiden flight, she formed the Jemison Group to develop and market advanced technologies.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is a British ethologist most famously known for her work on the chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.  Born April 3, 1934 in London, England), Jane was always interested in animal behavior.

She left school at the age of 18 and moved to Africa and worked under the tutelage of paleontologist and anthropologist Louis Leakey.  This is where she began to hone in on her passion.  She established the Gombe Stream National Game Reserve, now a national park, so she could study the behavior of chimpanzees.  

In 1965, she was awarded a Ph.D in ethology from the University of Cambridge, one of the only people ever to have received this distinction without a bachelor’s degree.  In 1977, she co-founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation and in 2002, she became a UN Messenger of Peace and was the recipient of numerous awards such as the Templeton Prize.  She was also given the title Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

These are but a few of the female scientists who have left their indelible mark on the STEM field.  Akshaya Patra’s midday meal program encourages all children, regardless of gender, to gain a quality education and improve their nutritional health, thereby increasing their chances of achieving their dreams.  Nearly half of all of our beneficiaries are girls.

With so many extraordinary female scientists to choose from, there is no shortage of inspiration for future generations of scientists who want to embark on their own journey of scientific discovery.  

Akshaya Patra thanks you for your contributions.