Welcome To Unsung
We are identifying extraordinary individuals from oppressed groups (women, LGTBQ+, disabled, BAME, & neuro-diverse) throughout history who have positively contributed to mainstream society in the developed world, yet not been recognised, remembered, or celebrated for it.
These people are the unsung heroes that the world should know about. For short, we call them Unsung.
We’ve broadly grouped our unsung heroes together under Science/Medicine, Inventors, and Other ‘others’ (mainly those who had a social impact, or who don’t fit into the other categories), as well as by LGBTQ+, BAME, Women, & Disabled heroes.
If you notice that neurodivergent Unsung (eg asperger’s/autism) are under-represented in our gallery, it’s because the autistic spectrum has only been recognised relatively recently. We’re not keen on assumed retrospective diagnoses of historical people who may (or may not) have been on it.
This is a live project done in our spare time, not for profit. Feel free to link, reuse, & share the contents of this site, liberally. As we have more time, we’ll add more Unsung and more categories for you to filter from (eg Civil rights + Disabled or Arts & LGBTQ+).
If you know of Unsung who really should be in this collection for the world to honour, please tell us via the form below. We’ll research them & add them to our gallery as soon as we’re able.
- Physical Disabilities
Lee Miller (1907 – 1977)
American photographer, photojournalist and model Miller studied photography under seminal French photographer Man Ray in Paris. Living in London at the the outbreak of World War II, Mil-ler became a war photographer for Vogue, recording the devastation of the Blitz. An accredited war correspondent by 1942, Miller’s work took her to Europe soon after D-Day, where she documented field hospitals in Normandy, the Liberation of Paris, the battle of Alsace, the first use of napalm at the German-occupied citadel in St Malo, the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald, and most famously, Hitler’s apartment in Munich, where she posed defiantly in his bathtub. Suffering from PTSD and depression in the aftermath of war, Miller turned away from photography. She died from cancer in her home in Britain.
Hans Scholl (1918-1943)
Born in Crailsheim, Germany, Scholl - along with his sister Sophie - was a founder member of the anti-Nazi White Rose resistance movement. His intense dislike for the Nazis began as a member of the Hitler Youth. Towards the end of his time with the youth group Scholl was charged with ‘im-moral behaviour’ under laws that criminalised homosexuality, due to a year-long relationship he had with a young man in the same group as himself. Disillusioned, this experience helped inspire Scholl’s resistance to the Nazi regime and it was while studying medicine in Munich some years later, that Scholl and others founded their resistance group. White Rose practised non-violent pas-sive resistance, and published six leaflets urging their fellow countrymen to do the same. It was while distributing these leaflets in 1943 that Scholl and his sister where arrested by the Gestapo. Found guilty of high treason, both were executed by guillotine.
Irena Sendler (1910 – 2008)
Born in Poland into a Catholic family, Sendler worked as a social worker in Warsaw's impover-ished neighbourhoods. Following the German invasion of 1939 Sendler and her colleagues joined the Polish Underground - and acted as part of an organised resistance - smuggling food and medi-cal supplies to Jews held in the Warsaw ghetto, and providing forged documents to those who escaped. Sendler was also involved in smuggling Jewish children out, helping them to hide with a network of non-Jewish families, convents and orphanages. Aiding a Jew was punishable by the death penalty, and in 1943 Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo who beat and tortured her, want-ing the identities of the people she had aided and worked with. Refusing to provide this infor-mation, Sendler was sentenced to execution by firing squad, but escaped when her allies bribed her guards.
Garret Morgan (1887-1963)
Inventor and African American community leader Morgan is famous for several innovations includ-ing hair care products, and a traffic control device that had a third ‘warning' position. Morgan’s most prominent invention was an early gas mask, known as a ‘safety hood’. Inspired after witness-ing firefighters struggling with smoke inhalation, Morgan patented his hood in 1912, forming the National Safety Device Company to market it. His device became famous following a rescue which saved several men's lives, trapped after tunnel explosion under Lake Erie. Those trapped included two previous failed rescue attempts. Morgan and his brother managed to rescue most of those involved, and his device went on to save thousands of lives. It was awarded a gold medal by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Noor Inayat Khan (1914 – 1944)
Born in Moscow to a pacifist Indian muslim father and an American mother, Inayat Khan grew up in Paris, living there until the German invasion, when the entire family escaped to England. De-termined to contribute to the war effort Inayat Khan joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and trained as wireless operator, before being recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). In 1943, she was landed by light aircraft in France, to work with the ill-fated PROSPER British spy network in Paris, becoming the first woman to work as a wireless operator in an occupied terri-tory. Unlike her colleagues, Inayat Khan evaded capture, and for months was the only active SOE radio operator in the Paris area. Betrayed in October 1943 and imprisoned by the Gestapo in Paris and Germany, Inayat Khan was classified as ‘highly dangerous’ and so was kept shackled in solitary confinement. Refusing to give any information on her work or her fellow operatives, in September 1944, along with three other captured SOE women Inayat Khan was moved to Da-chau, where she was stripped, beaten, and executed by firing squad. Inayat Khan was posthumous-ly awarded the George Cross, and a French Croix de Guerre.
Moira Kelly (1964 – )
Inspired as a child after watching a documentary about Mother Theresa, and by spending time with disabled pupils at a neighbouring school, Kelly trained as a special education teacher. Years work-ing among Aboriginal children in Western Australia followed, before Kelly headed off around the world to help children in need, setting up soup kitchens and schools, and working in refugee camps. Her non-profit organisation, Children First Foundation, now arranges for children suffering from a range of serious medical conditions - and whose families are unable to access medical care - to travel to Australia for treatment and rehabilitation.
Omowunmi Sadik (1964 – )
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, and also educated in Australia, Sadik is a surface chemist, inventor, and professor at Binghamton University. She is best known for her groundbreaking work in develop-ing microelectrode biosensors - an ‘electronic nose’ that can detect even trace amounts of organ-ic materials and which can be used to detect bombs and drugs. Another of Sadik’s patents in-cludes a sensor that detects HIV in just a few minutes, enabling doctors to provide results imme-diately, rather than the previous wait of several days. She is currently developing technology that will recycle metal ions from waste for industrial and environmental purposes.
George Carruthers (1939 – )
African American inventor, physicist, and space scientist Carruthers is best known for his work on ultra-violet observations of the earth's upper atmosphere. In 1972, Carruthers invented the first moon-based observatory, the Far Ultraviolet Camera, which was used in the Apollo 16 mis-sion, and which provided views of the earth, stars, celestial bodies and solar system thousands of miles away. His cameras also provided views of the effects of pollution on the earth’s atmos-phere, and, for the first time, were able to detect hydrogen in space - suggesting that plants were not the only source of oxygen for the Earth, and renewing the debate about the origin of stars.
Jan Ernst Matzeilger (1852–1889)
Born in Suriname, Matzeliger moved to the United States as a young man and trained as a shoe maker. An expensive, time-consuming and difficult task, shaping and attaching the body of the shoe to its sole was done by hand. Convinced there was a better solution, Matzeliger designed a machine for this process, receiving his patent in 1883. His machine produced up to 700 pairs of shoes per day, more than 10 times the amount that could be produced manually. By dramatically increasing shoe production Matzeliger’s invention also decreased the price of high-quality foot-wear, making it available to those on a low income for the first time.
Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922 – 1999)
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Brown is responsible for inventing the modern home se-curity system. In 1966, concerned about rising crime levels in her neighbourhood, Brown - a nurse - and her husband Albert set about designing a a closed-circuit security system that moni-tored visitors via camera, displaying their images onto a television monitor. Brown’s system also contained a panic button that immediately contacted the police. With their patent awarded in 1969, their invention inspired many versions of home security systems used today and over a dozen inventors have since cited the Brown patent for their own devices, most recently in 2013.
Mark E. Dean (1957 – )
American computer scientist, inventor and engineer Mark Dean is credited with helping develop a number of landmark innovations that have enhanced and improved computing technologies. Working for IBM, Dean first co-created a system that allowed additional devices such as disk drives, printers and monitors to be plugged directly into computers. His work also led to the de-velopment of the colour PC monitor and, in 1999, the creation of the first gigahertz chip—a revo-lutionary piece of technology that is able to do a billion calculations a second.
Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000)
Austrian-born Hollywood film star Lamarr is also known for her work as an inventor. Her inno-vations were some of the first that explored wireless communications, and, decades before the idea of mobile phones, showed that communications could be made on a private, wireless fre-quency. During World War II Lamarr worked alongside composer George Anthiel to develop a radio guidance system for torpedoes that aimed to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis pow-ers. Although the technology was not adopted until the 1960s, the principles of their work have since been incorporated into Bluetooth technology, and have also influenced Wi-Fi. Lamarr re-ceived the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award in 1997, and the Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achieve-ment Bronze Award, given to individuals whose achievements have significantly contributed to soci-ety. In 2014, Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Mary Anderson (1866-1953)
Without Mary Anderson, we may not have had the windscreen-wiper. With her main role as a Californian cattle rancher, Anderson’s invention was inspired after a visit to New York City dur-ing the winter of1902. Having watched the driver of her trolley car having to stop every few minutes to get out and manually clear the sleet and snow from his windshield, Anderson designed a wiper that could be operated from inside the vehicle. With her patent granted in 1903, Ander-son tried selling her design to several car manufacturers, who all rejected it as unnecessary. Dec-ades later, with her patent lapsed - and car safety a more pressing issue - others were able to copy her idea and windscreen-wipers became standard on most vehicles.
Alexander Miles (1838 – 1918 )
African-American Miles is best known for his invention of automatically closing and opening eleva-tor doors. While riding in an elevator in with his young daughter, Miles observed how unsafe open doors could be. The doors of both the shaft and the elevator had to be opened and closed manually - by either the elevator operator or by passengers - making it a fairly risky endeavour. This inspired his design that automated doors through a series of levers and rollers that engaged when arriving or departing from a given floor. The influence of his elevator patent is still seen in modern designs, with automatic doors as standard.
Thomas L. Jennings (1791- 1856)
Born a free man in New York City, Jennings initially worked as a tailor and dry cleaner - as well as an abolitionist. He was also the first African American to receive a patent in 1821 for his dry-scouring technique - a precursor of today’s dry cleaning. This was unusual for an African Ameri-can, as the inventions of those enslaved were considered the property of their masters. As a freeman Jennings was able to claim exclusive rights to his invention, and also the profits that de-rived from it. He used this income to free the rest of his family from slavery and fund abolitionist causes.
Bette Nesmith Graham (1924 – 1980)
High-School drop out, secretary and divorced single mother Graham created a multi-million dol-lar business empire with her invention of Liquid Paper correcting fluid. Frustrated by an inability to correct mistakes on the then new electric typewriters, Graham’s invention was inspired after witnessing painters simply cover their imperfections with an additional layer of paint. Using a white, water-based tempera paint on her typos, Graham experienced huge demand for her prod-uct among her fellow secretaries. Working full-time on this in her kitchen, Graham refined, pa-tented and launched her product in 1958. Her business expanded rapidly, and she eventually sold it for $47.5 million in 1979.
Deepika Kurup (1998 – )
Inspired after witnessing children drinking polluted water in India, and aged just 14, American Kurup invented a cheap and effective water purification system that uses solar energy. Recognised as ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ in 2012, Kurup also won the grand prize in the Discovery Edu-cation 3M Young Scientist Challenge. In 2014 she won the ‘United States President's Environmen-tal Youth Award’, and represented the United States in Sweden at the international Stockholm Junior Water Prize. In 2015 she was listed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30. Alongside her academic stud-ies, ongoing research, talks, and writing, Kurup is also CEO and founder of Catalyst for World Wa-ter, a social enterprise aimed at deploying her invention in water-scarce areas.
Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad (1996 – )
Incredibly, aged just sixteen, Egyptian Faiad created a new method for generating clean-burning biofuel from waste plastics. Faiad identified a low-cost and widely available catalyst - calcium ben-tonite - that breaks down plastic in a far more efficient manner than previous attempts had man-aged to. Her discovery is both cheaper and safer to implement, and comes without the usual ac-companying toxic gases. Faiad’s innovation has provided a cheap and sustainable alternative to fos-sil fuels, at the same time as providing a means to deal with the ever-growing environmental ca-tastrophe of plastic waste.
Damini Kumar (1977 – )
If you’ve ever been frustrated by a dripping tea-pot then British inventor and design engineer Ku-mar is your saviour. An invention that won her the Young Inventor of the Year Competition, Kumar’s non-drip ‘D-pot’ has also been adapted for use with any container that pours. As no spillage means fewer hazards, Kumar’s invention has improved safety when used with chemical containers and petrol cans.
Angela Zhang (1995 – )
Aged just 17, American-Asian Zhang discovered a nanoparticle that can detect and help kill cancer cells. Known as the iron oxide gold nanoparticle, Zhang’s discovery can detect cancerous cells, and through its abilities to target these specific cells, it can deliver chemotherapy drugs more effi-ciently to them, without affecting the surrounding healthy cells. This would also decrease many of the unpleasant side-effects associated with chemotherapy. Ongoing clinical trials and other steps mean there’s still many years before her research is helping patients, but Zhang’s discovery still represents a big step forward in the fight against cancer.
Dr Seema Prakash (1961 – )
Born in Uttar Pradesh, India, Prakash invented Glass Bead Liquid Culture Technology (GBLCT). A cheap and cost-effective means to propagate disease-free, high-yielding plants, GBLCT made this technology available to small and medium sized farmers for the first time. By replacing the traditional material agar with the much more affordable glass beads, Prakash’s invention has im-proved the lives of rural people in many developing countries. Believing that ‘women are more suited to Applied Biotechnology because of their ability to concentrate, create and care’, Prakash also promotes female education and employment. Her aim is that her technology is used specifi-cally in arid and semi-arid parts of the world in order to achieve self-sufficiency in food produc-tion.
Patricia Bath (1942 – )-img-55
American opthamoloigst, inventor and academic Bath is responsible for inventing the Laserphaco Probe, a device that dramatically improved the removal of cataracts. Her device quickly - and al-most painlessly - dissolves the cataracts using a laser, and is used internationally. Bath’s invention resulted in her becoming the first African American woman to receive a patent for a medical pur-pose. She is also the first black person to serve as a resident in ophthalmology at New York Uni-versity, and the first black woman to serve on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Centre. She also founded the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.
Valerie Thomas (1943 – )
Scientist and inventor Thomas spent most of her career working for NASA. In 1980 she patented the Illusion Transmitter - a device which produces optical illusion images via two concave mirrors. In contrast to flat mirrors - whose images appear to be inside or behind the mirror - Thomas’ invention produces images that seem real and appear as if they are actually in front of the mirror. This technology is still used by NASA today, has been adapted for use in surgery as an improved way of seeing inside the body, and is also used in the production of television and video screens.
Sarah ‘Tabitha’ Babbitt (1779 – 1853)
Part of the Massachusetts Shaker community, Babbitt was a tool maker and inventor. Her inven-tions included the circular saw - a tool which is still in use today, two centuries later. The Shaker philosophy of gender equality allowed Babbitt to work in traditional masculine arenas, and their policy of teaching and sharing with others meant she never filed for patents for any of her inven-tions. These included cut nails, an improved spinning wheel head, and a process to make false teeth.
Caresse Crosby (1891-1970)
Co-founder of the Black Sun Press, which published early works by authors such as Ernest Hem-ingway, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, and Charles Bukowski, by inventing the modern bra Crosby is also known for revolutionising women's underwear. She received her patent in 1914. Crosby en-joyed a wild and bohemian lifestyle, an open marriage, multiple affairs, frequent drug use, deca-dent parties, and long trips abroad. This way of life did not combine well with business acumen, and she sold her patent for just $1,500 to a company that went on to make $15 million over the next 30 years. After the suicide of her second husband - and divorce from her third - Crosby be-gan a long-term love affair with black actor and boxer Canada Lee, visibly flouting both convention and American miscegenation laws. In 1950 she founded anti-war organisation Women Against War and lobbied (unsuccessfully) for a Department of Peace.
Melitta Bentz (1873-1950)
German housewife Melitta Bentz revolutionised coffee brewing and drinking by inventing the use of filter paper. Her new method involved placing a piece of blotting paper into a brass pot with a few holes punched in it. The coffee was poured through this system, with the bitter grounds trapped by the paper, and the liquid filtering through into a waiting cup. Bentz received a patent for her invention in 1908, and founded a business that still exists today. The Melitta Group KG is run by Bentz’s grandchildren, and employs over 3,000 employees in 50 countries.
Katherine Burr Blodgett (1898-1979)
Scientist and inventor Katharine Blodgett was the first woman to receive a Ph.D in physics from Cambridge University, and was also the first woman hired by General Electric. While she con-tributed important military research during World War II (for example gas masks and smoke screens), it is her invention of non-reflective glass that became her most influential creation. Originally used for camera and projector lenses, Blodgett’s non-reflective glass is still vital for eyeglasses, car windshields and computer screens.
Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919)
Born Sarah Breedlove, Walker was the first child in her family to be born free - her siblings and parents had all been slaves. Orphaned at the age of 7, Walker quickly rose to become one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire, the wealthiest African-American wom-an in the country, and one of the most successful women, and African-American, business owners ever. Her wealth came from her creation of a line of hair-care and beauty products specifically aimed at black women, which she sold across the USA, the Caribbean and Central America. A social activist and philanthropist, Walker donated large amounts of her profits to advancing civil rights, education, orphanages and the arts, while her will left the majority of her estate to charity.
Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914)
Margaret Knight was a prolific inventor in late 19th century America. Aged just 12, after witness-ing a colleague’s injury while working in a textile mill, Knight was inspired to design a safety de-vice for textile looms. Knight’s first patent (in 1871) was for a machine that made flat-bottomed paper shopping bags. 27 more patents followed, and Knight’s inventions include a shoe-manufacturing machine, a sash window frame, a ‘dress shield’ to protect garments from sweat stains, as well as a rotary engine and an internal combustion engine.
Percy Julian (1899 – 1975)
Born in Alabama - the grandson of slaves - Julian is best known for discovering how to make im-portant steroids from plant sources, making them more affordable to mass-produce. Encouraged by his parents towards higher education, Julian first studied in DePauw University. Racial preju-dice made it impossible for him to undertake a doctorate in the U.S, so Julian traveled to Vienna, earning his Ph.D. in chemistry, 1931. Refused a professorship at DePauw due to his ethnicity, Jul-ian instead worked as director of research at Glidden's Soya Products. It was here that he discov-ered how to mass produce the steroids progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone from plant sterols. By the 1940s, Julian’s research had also uncovered a means to synthesise both cortisone and hydrocortisone - steroids used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, eczema and pso-riasis. Today’s processes still use the same initial processes that Julian pioneered.
Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014)
While working for Dupont, chemist Stephanie Kwolek created an unusually lightweight and strong new fibre - Kevlar. Kevlar went on to be developed into more than 200 applications that include military helmets, bulletproof vests, bomb-proof materials, tennis rackets, car tires, hock-ey sticks, skis, aeroplanes, car tires, cut-resistant gloves, hurricane safe rooms, ropes, cables, armoured cars, fibre-optic cables and building materials. Despite her discovery generating several billion dollars of revenue for DuPont, Kwolek never benefited directly from it financially. Kwolek was awarded the National Medal of Technology for her research on synthetic fibres and was in-ducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994.
Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858 – 1937)
Physicist, biologist, biophysicist, botanist, archaeologist and polymath Bose was one of India’s most prominent scientists. He was also a science fiction writer! His research demonstrated that plants are sensitive to heat, cold, light, noise and other external stimuli, proving that there are many similarities between plants and other living organisms. He invented the crescograph - a de-vice that magnified the motion of plant tissues to10,000 times of their actual size. Bose also pio-neered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent. Bose was constantly undermined by the British, who belittled his studies, research and achievements, a stance which has now been re-evaluated. Acknowledged as a pioneer in the field of biophysics, Bose also contributed to the development of radio com-munication. He is also credited with discovering millimeter length electromagnetic waves. Many of his instruments remain largely usable now, over 100 years later, and their influence can be seen in modern forms today.
Annie Jump Cannon (1863 – 1941)
American astronomer Cannon was instrumental in developing contemporary stellar classification - a method to organise and classify stars based on their temperatures and spectral types. Almost completely deaf, in 1884 Cannon graduated with a degree in physics from Massachusetts’ Welles-ley College, one of the countries top academic schools for women. In 1896, Cannon joined a team of woman based at Harvard College Observatory, employed to map and define the night sky by examining photographic plates and carrying out astronomical calculations based on them. Can-non was able to classify stars faster than anyone else, and towards the end of her career was able to do so for around 200 stars an hour. She discovered her first star in 1898, and over the course of her career Cannon went on to discover 300 variable stars, five novas, and one spectroscopic binary.
Temple Grandin (1947 – )
One of the first on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism, American Grandin is professor of animal science at Colorado State University, con-sultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour, and an autism spokesperson. Not formally diagnosed until her forties, Grandin’s mother had long suspected her daughter to be on the spec-trum. Aged 18 Grandin invented a ‘hug box’, a device that can calm those with autism. After an education in human psychology and animal science, Grandin became a prominent and widely cited proponent for the humane treatment of livestock, arguing that ‘We've got to give those animals a decent life, and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animals respect’. In 2004 she was awarded a prize by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for this work. She has also received numerous honorary degrees from many universities.
Marie Tharp (1920 – 2006)
American geologist Tharp co-created the first scientific map of the Atlantic Ocean floor. She dis-covered the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, proving Alfred Wegener's Continental Drift Theory. Her work caused fundamental change in earth science, one that led to the acceptance of the now established theory of plate tectonics. In 1997, Tharp was named one of the four greatest cartographers of the 20th century by the Library of Congress.
Carolyn Bertozzi (1966 – )
Professor of Chemistry and Molecular Biology at Stanford, openly gay Bertozzi became one of the youngest recipients of the prestigious MacArthur "genius" award, and was the first woman to win the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize in 2010. Bertozzi developed a unique system to track cell de-velopment, and studies how cells communicate with each other through sugars. Her research fo-cuses on the glycobiology (the study of the structure of saccharides - essential components of all living things) underlying diseases such as cancer, inflammatory disorders like arthritis, and infec-tious diseases such as TB, and as such has helped progress medical developments in all these are-as.
Kate Craig-Wood (1977 – )
Ranked the 4th most influential women in British IT in Computer Weekly’s 2012 list, largely self-taught computer scientist and entrepreneur Craig-Wood is co-founder and managing director of Memset, Britain’s first carbon-neutral internet service provider. Known for promoting energy ef-ficiency in IT, and encouraging women in IT, Craig-Wood is also a trans woman, who campaigns for transgender acceptance.
Megan Smith (1964 – )
American Smith was the first female Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Highly expe-rienced in computer science and engineering, Smith had previously been vice president at Google. She is on the board of MIT, and Vital Voices (which works with women around the world to ‘un-leash their leadership potential’). Smith also cofounded the Malala fund, set up to fight for and encourage female education. Smith has worked on a diverse range of engineering projects from bicycle locks to solar powered cars, cookstoves, and even space station construction. She was voted one of the top 25 Women on the Web in 2000 and as one of the 50 most powerful LGBT people in the United States by OUT magazine in 2012 and 2013.
Dorothy Hodgkin (1910 – 1994)British Chemist Hodgkin Is Considered One Of The Pioneers Of X-ray Crystallography – A Method Used To Determine The Three-dimensional Structures Of Molecules. Her Numerous Discoveries In-clude The Confirmation Of The Structure Of Penicillin , The Structure Of Insulin, And The Structure Of Vitamin B12, For Which She Became The Third Woman – And The Only British Woman Scientist – To Win The Nobel Prize In Chemistry. She Remains The Only Woman To Receive The Prestigious Copley Medal, Awarded For ‘outstanding Achievements In Research In Any Branch Of Science’. A Pacifist And Anti-nuclear War Peace Campaigner, Hodgkin Was Awarded The Lenin Peace Prize From The Soviet Government In 1987 In Recognition Of Her Work For Nuclear Disarmament.
Mary Treat (1830 – 1923)
American naturalist Treat was a botanist and entomologist who collaborated with Charles Dar-win. Treat published numerous articles in various journals and magazines, and her research and discoveries led to four species of plants and animals being named after her. Her five year corre-spondence with Darwin helped validate her as a scientist, and also provided him with valuable in-sights into insect life, carnivorous plants and observations of plants native to America. Darwin acknowledged Treat’s contributions to his work in his book, Insectivorous Plants (1875).
Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)
American marine biologist, author, and conservationist Carson is credited with pioneering and advancing the fight against manmade environmental damage. In the early 1950s, her research into the ecology and organisms of the Atlantic shore led to a passion for conservation, and a concern over the dangers of pesticide overuse. Her most famous work, Silent Spring (1962), was highly critical of the extensive use of pesticides seen in agriculture, which had steadily grown since World War II. Carson’s book called for a major rethink of the practices of agricultural scientists - and the government - and also for a change in the way humankind views the natural world. Her book is widely credited with helping launch the modern environmental movement.
Ben Barres (1954 – 2017)
Described by colleagues as being ‘incontestably visionary’, American professor of neurobiology, developmental biology and neurology Barres spent his career studying the crucial roles played by glial cells - the majority of brain cells that aren’t neurons. In doing so he proved they are critical in sustaining the overall architecture of the brain, revolutionising the field of neuroscience. Barres’ main motivation was to understand the causes of brain tissue degeneration seen in conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurological conditions, hoping to find a cure. As part of this work he co-founded Annexon Biosciences, Inc., a company that making drugs to block neurodegeneration in these diseases. A trans man, Barres had particular empathy for women in the sciences, and championed their cause, having himself experienced sexism prior to his transition. Barres also had prosopagnosia, an inability to distinguish faces and so relied on voices or visual cues to identify even people he was familiar with.
Clemence Sophia Harned Lozier (1813 – 1888)
The youngest of 13 children, and orphaned aged 11, American physician Lozier had first learnt medicine from her mother, who had learnt native American healing techniques while living among tribes in Virginia. She was herself the neighbourhood ‘medicine woman.’ As a young married woman in New York City, Lozier set up a school for girls and gained a reputation as a highly-regarded teacher. She also studied medicine under her brother William, who was a doctor. In-spired by Elizabeth Blackwell, Lozier applied to several medical colleges, before eventually being accepted at Central Medical College of New York. She graduated in 1853, aged 40. As one of the city’s only female doctors, and specialising in obstetrics and surgery, Lozier’s medical practice grew rapidly and became lucrative. Alongside her suffrage and abolitionist work, in 1863, Lozier set up the New York Medical College for Women - the first in the state - which grew from just 7 to 219 students, and whose clinics served over 2000 patients annually.
Lydia Folger Fowler (1823-1879)
Pioneering American physician Fowler was the second woman in America to earn a medical de-gree, the first American-born woman to receive an American medical degree, and the first female professor at an American medical school. Prior to this Fowler had an established career as a lec-turer and writer on anatomy, hygiene and physiology. In 1851 Fowler was appointed professor of midwifery and diseases of women and children at the Central Medical College in Syracuse, New York having previously completed her degree there. Moving to London in 1863, alongside her on-going writing, lecturing, teaching and midwifery, Fowler was an active member of the Temperance League. It is estimated that she taught nearly a quarter of a million American and European women over the course of her lifetime.
Dr. Philip Emeagwali (1954 – )
Nigerian computer scientist Emeagwali - an expert in mathematics, physics, and astronomy - won the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers’ Gordon Bell Prize in 1989. Inspired by his study of bees, and the efficiency with which they construct and work with honeycomb, Emeagwali invented a computer to emulate this process. Using 65,000 processors he created the world's fastest computer, which performs 3.1 billion calculations per second. In 2004, Emeagwali was voted the "35th-greatest African (and greatest African scientist) of all time" in a survey by by New African magazine. Emeagwali’s computers are currently being used to forecast the weather and predict future global warming.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910)
British physician Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council. She also actively promoted the education of women in medicine in both the U.K and U.S. Born in Bristol, but moving to New York with her family in 1832, Blackwell was accepted by Geneva Medical College, New York - the only woman out of 150 students. She graduated first in her class in 1842. Black-well opened a small clinic in New York, which by 1857 had expanded into the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. Returning to England in 1869, Blackwell along with Sophia Jex-Blake, helped establish the London School of Medicine for Women, and lectured in midwifery. On re-tiring, Blackwell became active in a number of social and moral reform movements.
Mae Jemison (1956 – )
Jemison first earned a chemical engineering degree before pursuing a medical career, working in the Peace Corps as a G.P. After several years as a clinician, and inspired by both Sally Ride - the first American woman in space - and Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek, Jemison achieved a child-hood ambition and joined NASA. In 1992 she became the first African American woman in space, aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison is now Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and runs her own company, the Jemison Group that researches, markets, and develops science and technology for daily life. Her Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence (named after her mother) encourages young people into science, and in 2012 it won a grant to work on the 100 Year Star-ship Project, which aims to research and develop technologies that will eventually enable interstel-lar space travel.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
Pioneering African-American scientist Carver was born into slavery but went on to become a botanist and one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time. His research on plant biology focused on the development of new uses for crops including peanuts, sweet pota-toes, soybeans and pecans - the aim being to lift black farmers out of the desperate poverty in which most of them lived. His nickname, the Peanut Man, came from the incredible amount of in-ventions he derived from these plants, including more than 300 from peanuts (for example milk, plastics, paints, dyes, cosmetics, soap, ink, and even a type of gasoline) and 118 from sweet pota-toes (including molasses, postage stamp glue, flour, vinegar and synthetic rubber). Carver never married, but was the constant companion of scientist Austin W. Curtis, Jr. for the last decade of his life. As such it is it is generally accepted that Carver was either gay or bisexual.
James Barry (1795 – 1865)
Irish-born Barry was a military surgeon in the British Army. By the end of his career he had risen to Inspector General in charge of military hospitals - the second highest medical office in the Brit-ish Army. He performed the first successful Caesarian section to be carried out in Africa. A tee-total vegetarian, Barry strove to improve conditions - food, sanitation and medical care - for common soldiers, the poor and other under-represented groups such as prisoners and lepers. While Barry lived as a man for his entire adult life, he was born as female - something that only became public after his death.
Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845 – 1926)
Born in Massachusetts to parents who were freed slaves, Mahoney became the first black woman to complete graduate nurse training in the USA, progressing the advancement of both black peo-ple and women in the process. Based in the New England Hospital for Women and Children, Ma-honey was one of just 3 nurses who managed to complete the intensive 16 month training pro-gramme, having already spent 15 years working as a janitor, cook, maid and washerwoman in the same institution. Working predominantly as a private nurse on graduating, Mahoney was also an active supporter of women's equality and suffrage, and participated in the civil rights struggle. She was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote in 1920.
Angela Helen Clayton MBE (1959 – 2014)
An internationally known physicist working in the fields of Nuclear Criticality Safety and Health Physics, Clayton was also a trans woman, a campaigner for transgender rights - and an active trade union member on both a national and local level. Well respected in her field, Clayton established important measures used for the prevention of nuclear and radiation accidents via her various roles in safety ccommittees, and the Reactor Safety Panel at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. Closely involved in development of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, Clayton was awarded an MBE in 2006 for her services in this area.
Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)
Born into a Quaker family, Mitchell became the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer. She became the 3rd women anywhere to discover a comet in 1847, using a tele-scope to do so. She was awarded the King of Denmark’s Cometary Prize the following year. Mitchell became professor of astronomy at Vassar College in 1865, the first person appointed to the fac-ulty, and her position as an outspoken abolitionist and suffragist meant she mixed with other prominent academics and campaigners such as Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Ayla Holdom (1982 – )
Holdom served a helicopter pilot in the Royal Air Force for 13 years, over half of which was as part of the RAF Search and Rescue team. She now flies for the National Police Air Service. She was also the first openly transgender military pilot in Britain. In 2010 she was outed by The Sun ‘newspaper’ during the early stages of her transition as, at the time, one of her colleagues was Prince William. Holdom used the resultant publicity to promote transgender rights and visibility.
Nergis Mavalvala (1968 – )
Born in Pakistan, but living and working in America for most of her life, astrophysicist Mavalvala was part of the team that observed gravitational waves for the first time - a century after they were predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Described as one of humanity's greatest scien-tific achievements, this discovery has advanced our understanding of the origin of the universe. Professor of Astrophysics at MIT, Mavalvala has received numerous accolades, including the 2013 Joseph F Keithley award for advancements in measurement science, a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Award”), and LGBTQ Scientist of the Year Award.
Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Perez is a pioneering cancer spe-cialist and an internationally known breast cancer researcher. She has led numerous clinical trials for new breast cancer therapies during her 25 year research career, including monoclonal anti-body therapy, a treatment which spurs the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. She continues to serve on the editorial boards of multiple academic journals, has authored over 700 research articles, and also works to advance LGBT equality in the workplace
Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881)
Jamaican-born businesswoman, herbalist and nurse Seacole is best known for her work during the Crimean War (1853-56). Prior to this she had gained some recognition for her use of Creole herbal remedies to ease symptoms during cholera and yellow fever outbreaks in Jamaica and Pan-ama - skills she had learnt from her mother. Seacole was repeatedly turned down by the British authorities when volunteering to assist with nursing during the Crimean War. Undaunted she financed her own trip, setting up her ‘British Hotel’ outside Balaclava, near the war zone. From here she prescribed remedies, dressed wounds and ran a canteen and store. Taking a more hands-on approach than Florence Nightingale, Seacole visited and nursed sick, injured and dying soldiers in army hospitals and on the battlefields, overcoming obstacles of gender, class and race in order to do so. Known by the soldiers as ‘Mother Seacole’, it wasn’t until a century after her death that her achievements became more widely recognised.
Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu (1947 – )
Born to an Irish Catholic mother and a Nigerian father, Anionwu spent much of her formative years in care. Beginning her nursing career in London aged 18, Anionwu became the UK’s 1st Sickle cell & Thalassaemia specialist nurse having previously studied in the United States. In 1979 she co-created the first UK Sickle Cell and Thalassemia counselling centre, a model which was mirrored by the 30 centres across the UK. As well as publishing many works, Anionwu also spent much of her career teaching. She is currently Emeritus Professor of Nursing at University of West London. Anionwu was awarded a CBE in 2001 and a DBE in 2017 for her services to nursing.
Benjamin Banneker (1731 – 1806)
Born as a freeman in Maryland, Banneker was a mathematician, astronomer and author. At 22 he made America’s first functioning clock - apparently modelled on a pocket watch, the parts of which he carved to scale. Mixing with Quakers, who gave him access to books and equipment, Banneker enhanced his minimal education by teaching himself astronomy, predicting the 1789 so-lar eclipse. Using his astronomical calculations, in 1792 Banneker published his first of a six-year series of commercially successful almanacs - essentially calendars for the upcoming year that pre-dicted weather, astronomy and meteorology. An abolitionist, Banneker’s almanacs also promoted his political views. He was in correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, challenging his somewhat hypocritical status as a slave owner who outwardly condemned slavery.
Dr Maria Del Socorro Flores Gonzalez (1955 – )
Mexican scientist Gonzalez invented a test that efficiently detects invasive amebiasis - a potential-ly fatal parasitic disease of the intestine that affects 500 million people worldwide. Invasive ame-biasis kills an estimated 110,000 people per year, many of whom could be saved by an early and accurate diagnosis. Gonzalez’s invention diagnoses amebiasis far more effectively than previous tests, and also utilises cost-effective technologies available to most developing countries - the sites of the majority of invasive amebiasis cases. Gonzalez’s research has now almost developed a vaccine against amebiasis.
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE (1968 – )
British space scientist, science communicator and Honorary Research Associate at UCL, Aderin-Pocock is also co-presenter of the BBC TV show “The Sky at Night”. Aderin-Pocock has led pro-jects making anything from land mine detectors to systems that improve our knowledge of climate change. Aderin-Pocock also works passionately to encourage young people into science, particu-larly those in inner-city schools, or those who may feel excluded from exploring careers in sci-ence due to class, race or gender.
Charles R. Drew (1904 – 1950)
African-American physician Drew developed a method of processing and preserving blood plasma (blood without cells) allowing its extended storage in blood banks. During World War II Drew became the medical supervisor of Blood for Britain - a program that supplied US blood to the Brit-ish. He also developed the idea of bloodmobiles - refrigerated blood storage and donation vehi-cles. Drew became director of the American Red Cross blood bank program in 1941, but re-signed that same year in protest over the American policy of racially segregating blood donations. By making more blood available to those in need, his vital medical breakthrough continues to help save thousands of lives today.
Lynn Conway (1938 – )
Pioneer of microelectronics chip design, Conway’s innovations during the 1970's have impacted chip design worldwide, with many high-tech companies and computing methods directly benefiting from her work. Prior to this, while working for IBM, Conway had invented a revolutionary way of improving computer chip processing power - Dynamic Instruction Scheduling (DIS). By the 1990s, DIS was used in almost all new PC chips, dramatically increasing their power. This inven-tion went uncredited for decades as Conway was fired from IBM in 1967 when she began her gender transition. Following this Conway restarted her technical career at the bottom of the lad-der, taking a new name and identity. It wasn’t until 1999 that Conway ‘came out’ as a trans wom-an, and that her earlier work on DIS was finally credited to her.
Dr. Shirley Jackson (1947 – )
The first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technolo-gy (MIT) - in any field - theoretical physicist Jackson has worked in many roles. Her research on charge density waves - important in developing high-temperature superconductors - has been used in everything from power transmission to quantum computing. In addition, Jackson has served on the boards of IBM and FedEx, co-chaired President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, and led international efforts to promote nuclear safety in places such as South Africa and the former Soviet Union. Since 1999, Jackson has been president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Insti-tute in Troy, New York - the first woman, and first African-American, to hold this position.
Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958)
British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer, Franklin made vital contributions to the under-standing of the structure of DNA. An expert in X-ray photographic techniques, Franklin was able to take two sets of high-resolution photos of crystallised DNA fibres. From this she deduced that DNA was probably a double helical (or spiral) structure. This provided the crucial breakthrough that her colleagues had been looking for, helping to solve the riddle of DNA. While Franklin’s male colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on DNA in 1962, her death from cancer in 1958 - before DNA structure was considered to be fully proven - meant Franklin’s con-tribution was not recognised until many years later.
Flossie Wong-Staal (1947 – )
Born in Guangzhou, China, Wong-Staal moved to Hong Kong following the Communist revolu-tion. After studying molecular biology at UCLA, Wong-Stall became the first scientist to clone HIV and to determine the function of its genes. This was a major step in proving that HIV is the cause of AIDS, and allowed for huge advances in both diagnosing and treating the virus. Wong-Stall has continued to work in HIV and AIDS research, and in 2007 her enormous contribution to this field saw her recognised by The Daily Telegraph as one of the "Top 100 Living Geniuses”.
Pío Del Río Hortega (1882 – 1945)
Spanish neurologist and homosexual, Rio Hortega was the first to identify and research microglia, the cells that initiate immune responses in the central nervous system. His 1921 discovery has gone on to allow a greater understanding of the development of - and possible treatments for - multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, HIV dementia, retinal degenerative diseases, as well as many other neurological conditions.
Alice Ball (1892 – 1916)
The first female professor of chemistry at the University of Hawaii, Ball was also the first woman - and the first African American - to receive a master’s degree from the same institution. She suc-cessfully pioneered a revolutionary new technique for treating leprosy with Chaulmoogra tree oil, saving thousands of lives. Ball’s technique allowed the oil to be absorbed by the body without the extremely painful side effects it had previously caused. Ball’s early death (exact cause un-known) meant her findings went unpublished, until they were claimed by a colleague who took the credit for himself. It took nearly 90 years until her achievement was recognised.
Sally Ride (1951 – 2012)
In 1983 astronaut, physicist, and engineer Ride became the first American woman to go into space, the third woman ever to do so and the first known LGBT astronaut. She rose high in NASA’s ranks and was central to the investigations of both the Challenger and Columbia disas-ters. Also a professor of physics, Ride played a key role in encouraging children - particularly girls - to study science. She did so via her non-profit organisation Sally Ride Science, a company which she co-founded with her long-term partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.
Dr Donald Palmer (1962 – )
Dr Palmer is an Associate Professor of Immunology at the Royal Veterinary College, London. His research focuses on how the immune system ages, in particular the role that the thymus plays - the gland that plays a vital role in the development of T cells. T cells defend the body from poten-tially fatal illnesses caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Palmer has also worked extensively in cancer research.
Louise Pearce (1885 – 1959)
Pearce, an American pathologist, was part of a team that developed a treatment - trypanosomiasis - for African sleeping sickness, a disease spread by the Tsetse fly. Sleeping sickness became a fatal and widespread epidemic that killed waste swathes of the East and Central African population during the early 1900s. Pearce travelled to the Congo in the 1920s in order to establish drug test-ing protocol for human trials. Her treatments were successful in the vast majority of cases, saving thousands of lives. Pearce also developed successful treatments for syphilis - and her discovery of a type of tumour contributed to the advancement of cancer research. She lived for many years with physician Sara Josephine Baker and Baker’s partner, author I. A. R. Wylie.
Dr Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912)
The first practising female doctor in Scotland, Jex-Blake led the campaign for women’s medical education. She was part of the ‘Edinburgh Seven’, the first female students to enrol at any British university. Despite widespread hostility against her, Jex-Blake campaigned vigorously for wom-en’s education - particularly in medicine. She helped establish the London School of Medicine for Women in 1874. By 1877 she had become the third registered female doctor in the country, founding the Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women in 1885, and the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women in 1886. A lesbian, Jex-Blake lived with her partner Dr Margaret Todd for many years.
Alan L. Hart (1890-1962)
American physician, researcher, radiologist and author Hart’s main achievements were in the field of radiology and tuberculosis. He pioneered the use of X-rays in the early diagnosis of the dis-ease and promoted - and implemented - the first comprehensive TB screening programmes, sav-ing many thousands of lives. Hart underwent the first documented female to male transgender transition in the United States, doing so in 1917-18.
Sophie Wilson EPO13
Paving the way for the 1980s home computer boom in the process. A transwoman, Wilson also designed the instruction set for the ARM processor, an essential component in the vast majority of today’s smartphones.
Alan Turing (1912-1954)
While more well-known for his pivotal role in deciphering the coded messages that helped the Allies defeat the Nazis during World War II, British mathematician Turing is also considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Turing’s post-war work was instrumental in progressing the design of early computers. Turing was prosecuted for his homosexuality in 1952 and accepting chemical castration as an alternative to a prison sentence. Considered to be an act of suicide, Turing during died of cyanide poisoning in 1954.
Sara Josephine Baker (1873-1945)
American physician Baker was instrumental in pioneering new approaches to public health, pre-ventative medicine, and infant mortality - exerting an influence on both sides of the Atlantic. By identifying that the infant mortality rate in the United States was higher that that of soldiers fighting in World War I, Baker led drives to tackle urban poverty and poor hygiene as a means to limit otherwise treatable deaths. The first woman to be a professional representative to the League of Nations, Baker spent the last 2 decades of her life living with her female partner, author I. A. R. Wylie.
Michael Dillon (1915 – 1962)
Born into a female body, aristocrat Dillon is thought to be the first person to undergo testos-terone therapy to begin a female to male transition, doing so in 1939. Dillon was also the first trans man to undergo phalloplasty - the surgical construction of a penis - in a series of operations in the late 1940s. Dillon then took a medical degree, qualifying in 1951, and worked at sea for several years as a naval doctor. His birth gender came to light having been listed as female by Burke’s Peerage, a guide that listed British aristocracy. The accompanying press attention caused him to flee to India and Tibet, where he became a Buddhist monk. Dillon spent his remaining years studying and writing about Buddhism.