Celebrating Pioneering Women in Science

AWIS celebrates the many achievements women scientists have made. Despite severe gender bias, these bold and brilliant women paved the way for future generations. Help us share their accomplishments so they too can be household names like Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking. Be sure to check back later, we will continue to add to this list.

Mary Anning

Detail of a portrait of Mary Anning by an unknown artist

Mary Anning

Paleontologist

Mary Anning was a fossil collector born in 1799 in Lyme Regis. Growing up, she collected fossils with her father and found the first Ichthyosaurus, a marine reptile, when she was twelve. In 1823, she found the first complete skeleton of a Plesiosaurus followed by the first Pterosaur outside of Germany in 1828. Despite her groundbreaking discoveries, scientists did not recognize her work and the Geological Society of London did not admit her. Her contributions inspired other scientists as well as public interest in paleontology. Today, her fossils are on display at the Natural History Museum in London, and the “Jurassic Coast” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Dr. Virginia Apgar

Physician

Dr. Virginia Apgar was an American physician known for her method of assessing newborn viability called the “Apgar score.” This practice was created in the 1950s, and during this time, it helped reduce infant mortality. Throughout her life, she always had a strong interest in math and science, where she started her medical training at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Apgar decided to pursue anesthesiology and transformed the department at Presbyterian Hospital (now New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center) with her strong character and will to help others. She was honored with a commemorative U.S. postage stamp and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Photo: Public Domain

Alice Ball

Chemist

Alice Ball, a chemist, developed the first successful treatment for Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. During the 1900s, those diagnosed with leprosy faced severe social discrimination and banishment, so Ball’s work enabled thousands of outcasted individuals to return home. Also, Ball was one of the first African-American women to receive a master’s degree in chemistry, and became the first female chemistry professor of the College of Hawaii. Due to other people taking credit for her work, she was largely forgotten, but recently she has received proper recognition for her work on leprosy and overcoming racial and gender barriers in science.

 

Photo credit: Jemal Countess

Dr. Patricia Bath

Chemist

Dr. Patricia Bath was an ophthalmologist known for inventing the Laserphaco Probe, a tool used in cataract surgery. After obtaining a medical degree from Howard University, she attended Columbia University and was the first African American to complete an ophthalmology residency program (1973). She was the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program (1983). For 5 years, Bath worked on the Laserphaco Probe, a device that was able to precisely treat cataracts and even restore the sight of people who had been unable to see for 30 years. In 1988, she received a patent for the Laserphaco Probe, becoming the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She continued her work in ophthalmology until 1993, when she retired from UCLA Medical Center.

 

Dr. Alexa Canady

Photo: Public Domain

Dr. Alexa Canady

Neurosurgeon

Dr. Alexa Canady is the first African-American woman to become a neurosurgeon. She graduated from University of Michigan Medical School in 1975, and began her surgical internship in 1975 at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She dealt with prejudice throughout her time at the hospital, such as being called the “equal-opportunity package.” When she became a neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, she was voted one of the top residents. In 1984, she became the first African-American woman to become certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. From 1987 to 2001, she was chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and has since helped thousands of pediatric patients.

 

Source: Changing the Face of Medicine

Dr. May Edward Chinn

Physician

Dr. May Edward Chinn was a physician known for her advocacy towards new methods to detect cancer. In 1926, she became the first black woman to graduate from the University of Bellevue Hospital Medical College, and the first black woman to hold an internship at Harlem Hospital. When she was banned from all New York’s hospitals like other black physicians, she personally met patients at their homes. She worked on studying cancer detection methods with George Papanicolaou, who created the Pap smear test. Throughout her career, she promoted cancer screening, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Columbia University for her work in medicine.

Madam Curie

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Madam Curie

Chemist and Physicist

Marie Skłodowska Curie, a Polish-French physicist and chemist, was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the only woman to receive two Nobel prizes. While studying uranium’s rays, she discovered new elements and named them polonium and radium. She also coined the term “radio-active” to describe them. In 1903, Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics for her research of radiation phenomena. She was also the first woman in France to attain a PhD in Physics, and the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. In 1911, she won a second Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of polonium and radium. During World War I, she established mobile radiology units to help doctors treat over a million wounded soldiers. Curie’s pioneering work in radiation led to new cancer treatments.

Source: Queens College Silhouette Yearbook 1942

Dr. Marie Maynard Daly

Biochemist

Dr. Marie Daly was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in chemistry in the United States. After she earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Queens College in 1942, Daly completed her master’s degree at New York University in only one year. At Columbia University, she studied how bodily compounds contribute to digestion and earned her doctoral degree in just three years. Her postdoctoral research at the Rockerfeller Institute focused on the composition of the cell’s nucleus and how proteins are metabolised. She taught at Howard University, Columbia University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. While devoting her time to research, Daly helped develop programs aimed at increasing minority enrollment in medical school and graduate programs. In 1988, she created a scholarship fund at Queens College for African-American science graduates.

Source: National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons

Gertrude Elion

Biochemist and Pharmacologist

Gertrude Elion became motivated to find a cure for cancer, shortly after her grandfather had died from it. She attend Hunter College and majored in chemistry. Despite graduating summa cum laude, no laboratory would hire a woman. She eventually scraped enough money together to attend graduate school (part-time). While working at Burroughs-Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline), she and George Hitchings pioneered “rational drug design” to attack pathogens without harming human cells. They developed drugs to treat leukemia, malaria, lupus, arthritis, gout and cancer; the first immuno-suppressant still used in organ transplants; and the first effective antiviral medication. For her many contributions, she was awarded an honorary PhD from the Polytechnic University of New York (now NYU) in 1989 and the National Medal of Science in 1991.

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee

Physician and Obstetrician

Dr. Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee was a physician who tirelessly worked to make healthcare more equitable for African-Americans. After she graduated top of her class, she could not find any positions at Massachusetts hospitals due to discrimination, so she moved to Washington D.C. to become an obstetrician at Howard University Hospital. In 1925, she established the Southeast Neighborhood House to give black communities greater access to healthcare. At the time of the Great Depression, Ferebee served as the voluntary medical director of the Mississippi Health Project, providing equitable healthcare to all state residents.

Source: © Ann Ronan Picture Library—World History Archive

Dr. Rosalind Franklin

Chemist

Rosalind Franklin, an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer, helped discover the molecular structure of DNA at King’s College. Using X-ray diffraction, she photographed the helical structure of DNA, known as “Photograph 51,” and discovered the density and helical form of DNA. The unpublished photo was secretly disclosed to scientists Watson and Crick, who used the photo along with data to present their final DNA model in 1953, and sadly took most of the credit. She left King’s College soon after, devoting her time to studying viruses and their structure. We can only imagine what more her cutting-edge work would have yielded had she not died at age 37.

Source: Wikipedia

Mary Elliott Hill

Organic and Analytical Chemist

Mary Elliott Hill was an organic and analytical chemist, born in North Carolina. She attended the Virginia State College for Negroes, now Virginia State University (VSU) from 1925-1929. She taught at VSU and took graduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania. She was one of the earliest African American women to acquire her master’s degree in chemistry (1941). Her work specified in ultraviolet light and using that to develop analytic methodology. While an associate professor and acting head of the chemistry department at Kentucky State University, she collaborated with her husband Carl McClellan Hill in developing the ketene synthesis, which aided in the development in plastics.

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Jane Hinton

Researcher and Veterinarian

Dr. Jane Hinton, a researcher and veterinarian, was a notable scientist in the field of bacterial resistance and veterinary medicine. After graduating from Simmons College in 1939, she worked with John Howard Mueller at Harvard University, where she helped develop Mueller-Hinton agar, a medium used to culture bacteria even today. In 1949, she earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Tuskegee University. She was one of the first African-American veterinarians in the nation, establishing her own practice in Massachusetts.

Source: Public Domain

Dr. Shirley Jackson

Theoretical Physicist

Dr. Shirley Jackson is a theoretical physicist and the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). She was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and founded the MIT Black Student Union, increasing African-American enrollment from two to 57 in only one year. While working at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Rutgers University, she prepared or collaborated on over 100 scientific articles. She was the first female and African-American President of RPI and introduced the Rensselaer Plan, improving the school’s academics and enrollment. She was appointed Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission where she established a strategic assessment program, completely remaking the program to become more efficient. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Dr. Shirley Jackson the National Medal of Science, the highest honor to individuals who made contributions to scientific fields.

Mae Jemison

Source: NASA

Dr. Mae C. Jemison

Physician and Astronaut

Dr. Jemison is a doctor, engineer, physicist, and astronaut who became the first African American woman to travel into outer space. Growing up, she always had a passion for science and was upset because she saw no female astronauts. She attended Stanford University and Cornell Medical School. After serving two years in the Peace Corps, she opened a private medical practice. In 1987, she applied and was selected to train at NASA. On September of 1992, she and six other astronauts went into space on the space shuttle “Endeavor.” After leaving NASA, Jemison started a consulting company that advocates for science, technology and social change, while also teaching environmental studies at Dartmouth. She has received multiple awards and serves on the Board of Directors of many organizations. She is continuing her passion for space and leading the 100 Year Starship Project.

Source: NASA

Katherine Johnson

Mathematician

Katherine Johnson was a NASA mathematician who helped calculate the flight path for NASA’s first manned space mission in 1962, and made important calculations for the Apollo moon landing. Her story was depicted in the film “Hidden Figures,” a critically acclaimed movie detailing the experience of Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson — three African-American mathematicians who worked on John Glenn’s first launch into space. She continued working at Langley Research Center for 33 years and retired in 1986. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. She died on February 24, 2020 at 101 years old.

Mae Jemison

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Anna Johnson Julian

Sociologist

Dr. Anna Johnson Julian was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation was on the trends of relief and casework treatment in Washington, D.C. While at Penn, she was the fourth national president of Delta Sigma Theta, Penn’s first black sorority. She also became the first African-American woman elected to Phi Beta Kappa. For 10 years, Julian was the research assistant at the Department of Research of the Public Schools of Washington, D.C., and was an instructor at Miner College where she taught educational sociology. Throughout her life, she was active in her community, serving as treasurer and vice president of Links, Inc., a women’s organization focused on education, culture, and civics.

Source: Edgar Fahs Smith Collection, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Irène Joliot-Curie

Physicist and Chemist

Dr. Irène Joliot-Curie, a French physicist and chemist, is best known for her work on radioactivity and nuclear physics. She grew up helping her mother run radiology units in field hospitals during World War I, and in 1925, she attained her Doctorate of Science for her thesis on the radiation of polonium. She and her husband discovered how to artificially manufacture radioactive atoms, which are crucial to cancer treatment and biomedical research. In 1935, they shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on the synthesis of new radioactive elements. She lived the rest of her life advocating for international peace and women’s rights.

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Angie Turner King

Chemist, Mathematician, and Educator
Angie King was an African American chemist, mathematician, and educator. She was an associate professor at West Virginia State College. During this time, she made sure to educate her students on the true meaning of “working in a laboratory” and used her position as a professor to improve the quality of student scientific research. She also taught chemistry to soldiers in the West Virginia State’s Army Specialized Training Program. In the 1970s, she made a presentation called “The Status of Women in East Africa” to highlight women who were working at this time. She continued using her knowledge to help and educate others, and after her retirement she received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.

Source: Wikipedia

Hedy Lamarr

Actress and Inventor

Hedy Lamarr was an actress and inventor known as the “mother of WiFI.” Born in Austria as Hedwig Kiesler, she acted in German films and married an arms dealer supplying the Nazis. She fled to the U.S. and became a Hollywood star. While she had no formal training, she teamed up with composer George Antheil to develop a communication system that was able to guide torpedoes. The system used “frequency hopping” which prevented enemies from intercepting and jamming the remote guidance. Their invention was patented in 1942, however the U.S. Navy was skeptical and did not adopt their design until 1957 and she was not recognized for her contributions until 1997. This technology was the basis for GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technology.

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Margaret Morgan Lawrence

Physician, Child Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst

Dr. Margaret Morgan Lawrence became the first African-American woman to practice psychoanalysis in the United States. While growing up in New York, she was very focused on her education and earned a full scholarship to Cornell in 1932. After graduating, she received multiple rejections from medical school and internships based on her race. She eventually attained an internship at Harlem Hospital where she realized the connection between poverty and public health. She decided to pursue child psychiatry to serve her local community. In 1953, she became Rockland County’s first child psychiatrist and remained devoted to assisting underprivileged children until she retired at the age of 90.

Photo: University of Copenhagen

Inge Lehmann

Seismologist and Geophysicist

Inge Lehmann discovered that the Earth’s inner core was solid surrounded by a molten outer core. Her interest in parts of the Earth started when she would read cardboard cards with information regarding earthquakes in different parts of the world. She studied shock waves and theorized that waves travelled a distance into the central core and bounded off a boundary. Her findings were later confirmed in the 1970s’ with a seismograph that interpreted waves bouncing off of the solid inner core. In 1971, she was honored with the William Bowie Medal — the highest distinction of the American Geophysical Union. She lived to be 105 years old.

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Ruth Smith Lloyd

Anatomist

Dr. Ruth Lloyd was known as the first African American woman to acquire her doctorate degree in Anatomy. She started her work in pursuing a degree in zoology, then doctoral research where she studied in the fertility of female Macaque monkeys. She taught Anatomy and Physiology in 1955. During this, she studied on endocrinology, sex-related hormones, and medical genetics. She was an active member of the Sigma Xi Honorary Scientific Society and the American Association of Anatomists. Outside of her work, she was very dedicated to the All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington. All of her contributions, including being a charter member of the National Museum of Women in Arts, serve as a basis for researchers today.

 

Maria Mitchell

Photo credit: The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

Ynés Mexía

Botanist

Ynés Mexía was a botanist and conservationist that advocated to protect the redwood forests of California. Born in Washington DC, she moved to Mexico after finishing school and lived there for about 30 years before moving back to the United States. She became a social worker in San Francisco but realized her passion for the environment. Mexía gave passionate speeches on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Save the Redwoods League and became an active member of the national park conservation movement. At the age of 51, she decided to pursue botany at UC Berkeley. In 1952, she traveled to Mexico and the rest of the Americas with Indigenous guides. She rallied for their rights and ended up collecting over 145,000 specimens over her 13-year career. A new genus and 50 species were named after her.

Source: Changing the Face of Medicine

Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill

Physician

Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill was the second Indigenous woman in the United States to hold an M.D. degree. After graduating from the Grahame Institute, a Quaker school for girls, she enrolled at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. After earning her medical degree in 1899, she interned at the Woman’s Clinic, set up her own private practice, and worked at the Lincoln Institute where she treated Indigenous children. In 1905, she married and moved to Wisconsin, where she treated people from the local Oneida reservation. Because she did not have a Wisconsin medical license, she could not charge money for her service or prescribe medication, but worked with other doctors to serve her patients. The Oneida community honored her selfless service with a monument established in her name, with an inscription reading “I was sick and you visited me.”

Maria Mitchell

Source: Stanford News Service

Maryam Mirzakhani

Mathematician

Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani was a mathematics professor at Stanford University and the only woman to ever receive the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics. Born in Iran, she became the first girl to compete in Iran’s International Mathematical Olympiad team in 1994, garnering the world’s attention and two gold medals. After graduating from Tehran’s Sharif University, she pursued a doctoral degree at Harvard University. Mirzakhani’s dissertation was so exceptional that it was published in three journals. As a mathematician, she specialized in advanced theoretical geometry and published papers that could have future implications in theoretical physics, cryptography, and material science. Sadly, her brilliance was cut short when she died of breast cancer in 2017 at 40 years old.

Maria Mitchell

Photo credit: Vassar College 

Maria Mitchell

Astronomer

In 1847, American astronomer Maria Mitchell became the first American to discover a comet. A librarian by day and an astronomer by night in her father’s observatory in Nantucket, she discovered comet C/1847 T1 – originally known as “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.” She became the first woman in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and one of the first women employed by the US government. As the first female astronomy professor, she advocated for girls’ education at Vassar College by bringing feminists to her observatory. She extended her advocacy to the American Association for the Advancement of Women, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in New York.

 

Maria Mitchell

Source: Public Domain

Dr. Ruth Ella Moore

Bacteriologist

Dr. Ruth Ella Moore, born in 1903, was known as the first African American woman in the United States who acquired a PhD in natural sciences. After Moore performed her dissertation on tuberculosis at Ohio State University, she became an associate professor and continued her scientific research. Her work as a bacteriologist was exceptional, and she became the first woman to lead a department at Howard University. Similarly, she was also the first African American to join the American Society for Microbiology. Her research on blood types, immunology, and tooth decay had a significant impact and still serve as a reference for many scientists today.

Photo: Public Domain

Dr. Joan Murrell Owens

Marine Biologist

Dr. Joan Murrell Owens was a marine biologist who classified the genus of Rhombopsammia, a type of button corals and three new species. From an early age, Owens was drawn to the oceans and wanted to become a marine biologist. In 1950, she enrolled in Fisk University, but they did not offer any marine biology courses. She majored in fine arts and then taught English at Howard University. In 1970, she was able to construct her own marine biology degree by majoring in geology and minoring in zoology. Because she suffered from sickle cell anemia, she wasn’t able to research life underwater, so she worked with the Smithsonian and studied existing samples of button corals. She received her PhD in 1984 and continued to teach at Howard until her retirement in 1995.

Photo: Public Domain

Carolyn Parker

Physicist
After receiving an MS in mathematics (1941 from University of Michigan), Carolyn Parker was the first African American to earn a postgraduate degree in physics (1951 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology). She was a research physicist at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio who’s work regarding the Dayton Project was extremely influential. The Dayton Project was a part of the Manhattan Project which aided in the making of atomic weapons during World War II and the Cold War. Much of her work was kept private during this time. She died of leukemia, likely as a direct result from radiation exposure during her work, and this illness kept her from finishing her doctoral program.

Source: Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin 

Astronomer

Dr. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was an astronomer credited with discovering the chemical composition of stars. Born in England, she earned a scholarship to Cambridge University where she studied physics. After graduating, she attended Harvard University to pursue a doctorate in astronomy. In 1925, she presented her thesis on stellar spectra, dubbed as “the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy” by Otto Struve. Payne concluded that stars were primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, a revolutionary discovery that changed how astronomers perceive the universe. After receiving her doctorate, she continued to work at Harvard but was denied a promotion to professor because she was a woman. In 1956, she became the first female professor at Harvard and the first woman to become department chair.

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Audrey Shields Penn

Neurologist

Dr. Audrey Shields Penn is the first African-American woman to become acting director of a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH). From a young age, she had a keen interest in chemistry and helping others, so she pursued a medical degree at Columbia University. She specialized in neurology and taught at Columbia. Her main focus of research was myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness and fatigue. In 1995, she became the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) where she served for 10 years and helped establish a Specialized Neuroscience Research Program for minorities in neuroscience.

Source: Nebraska Commission of Indian Affairs

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte

Physician

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was a the first Indigenous woman to become a physician. Inspired by a women’s rights advocate, she attended the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the first medical school for women in the country. After graduating as valedictorian, she returned to her home reservation. As the only physician serving the Omaha community (1,350 square miles), she worked tirelessly to increase healthcare access for the Omaha. The more traditional tribe members constantly questioned her education and skill, yet she remained devoted to helping members of her tribe. She was instrumental in opening the first modern hospital in Thurston County, Nebraska.

Photo: Public Domain

Dr. Jessie Isabelle Price

Veterinary Microbiologist

Dr. Jessie Isabelle Price was a pioneering veterinary microbiologist known for creating methods to control microbial diseases in waterfowl. She earned her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and PhD in veterinary microbiology at Cornell University where her dissertation was on bacterial infections in white Pekin ducklings. As a research specialist at Cornell’s duck research laboratory in Long Island, she continued her dissertation research focusing on reproducing and studying microbial diseases in hopes decreasing duck mortality. By 1974, she successfully created two vaccines that were used commercially in Long Island, the Midwest, and Canada. In 1977, she became a research microbiologist at the National Wildlife Health Center of the National Biological Service, where she studied the interactions between disease and the environment in waterfowl. Her research led to the greater understanding of avian cholera and prevented future outbreaks.

Photo: Public Domain

Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser

Psychologist

Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser was a psychologist best known for becoming the first Black woman to earn a PhD in psychology. Dr. Prosser was always drawn to education and had a strong desire to attend college, but due to finances her family only planned to send her older brother to college. Her brother convinced their parents to pay for her to attend college at Prairie View A&M University. She earned her teaching certificate taught while working on her bachelor’s degree. She ultimately earned her master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Cincinnati. Her dissertation on school integration concluded that Black children in integrated schools had a harder time socially — which was controversial in the time before Brown v. Board in 1954. Throughout her teaching career, Prosser assisted several Black students with attaining loans and funds for college.

Source: Harvard University Library

Dr. Mary Logan Reddick

Biologist

Dr. Mary Logan Reddick contributed to the scientific understanding of embryonic development through her studies on chicken embryos. She enrolled at Spelman College at just 15 years old. She earned a master’s degree in science and another in biology. To earn her doctorate degree, she studied how chicken embryos could be used to inform human embryo development. Dr. Reddick’s 30 years of research provided useful insights into the development of the organs, the nervous system and the effects of a cell position on development.

© Nobel Media. Photo: A. Mahmoud

Tu Youyou

Pharmacologist

Tu Youyou is the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize for her discovery of artemisinin, a drug used to treat malaria. After contracting tuberculosis at the age of 16, she determined that she wanted to study medicine in order to help others. She enrolled in Beijing Medical School to study pharmacology and worked at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine after she graduated. In 1967, Tu became head of the project to fight the devastating effects of chloroquine-resistant malaria. Her team turned to ancient Chinese medical texts and found references to sweet wormwood. From this, they distilled the compound artemisinin and found it to be very effective. The drug saved millions of lives and is described as one of the most important pharmaceutical inventions in the last 50 years.

Source: University of the Disctrict of Columbia

Dr. Marguerite Thomas Williams

Geologist

Dr. Marguerite Thomas Williams was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in geology. She enrolled in the Miner Teachers College and earned a certification and a scholarship to Howard University. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science, then pursued a master’s degree in geology at Columbia University. She completed her doctorate at the Catholic University of America after successfully defending her dissertation on the contribution of deforestation and agriculture on the erosion of the Anacostia drainage system located in Maryland. She became a full-time professor at Miner Teachers College and taught evening classes at Howard, dedicating her life to education and making geology a more inclusive field.

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Jane Cook Wright

Surgeon and Cancer Researcher

Dr. Wright was the first African American woman to become an associate dean of a Medical Institution (1967) which was the highest ranking African American woman at a U.S. medical school at the time. She earned her medical degree in just three years from New York Medical College. After completing her residency, she worked at the Cancer Research Foundation at Harlem Hospital – leading the foundation from 1952-55. She joined New York University as an associate professor of surgical research and director of Cancer Chemotherapy Research at NYU Medical Center. Wright was appointed to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke in 1964. She became the first female president of the New York Cancer Society and was a founding member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The organization she helped found is now one of the largest in the world and helps thousands of citizens.

Source: Library Of Congress

Josephine Silone Yates

Educator

Josephine Silone Yates was a science educator who was active in women’s and civil rights organizations. After graduating as valedictorian in 1877, she pursued a teacher certification and became the first certified African-American teacher in Rhode Island. She taught in public schools for a few years before joining the Lincoln Institute, a college for African American students in Jefferson, Missouri. In 1899, she moved to Kansas City and became involved in multiple African-American women’s and civil rights clubs. She became the first president of the Women’s League of Kansas City and later joined the National Association for Colored Women (NACW) where she held multiple elected positions including vice president, treasurer, and president. She represented the NACW and traveled across the country to deliver speeches. In 1902, she returned to Lincoln Institute and became the chair of English and History, and continued to work in education until her death in 1912.

1629 K Street, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006
awis@awis.org
(202) 588-8175

LET'S CONNECT

1629 K Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006
awis@awis.org
(202) 588-8175

© 2019 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.

© 2017 Association for Women in Science. All Rights Reserved.