BRIGHT MINDS: 10 women who changed the world
International Women’s day is a time to celebrate the impact of women across the world. This year, the theme is ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for change.’ We have shortlisted 10 female figures who have changed the course of history with their bright minds and passion for change. With an endless list of contenders, who made the list?
1. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Nicknamed the ‘Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale led a team of nurses to treat the wounded and improve insanitary conditions during the Crimean War, reducing the death count by two-thirds. Her writings led to a global healthcare reform and was a figurehead in introducing new professional training standards.
2. Emmy Noether (1882-1935)
Noether’s contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics led Albert Einstein to call her "the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began". Her theorems helped to confirm the general theory of relativity and her work remains crucial among any aspiring physician today.
3. Maya Angelou (1954- )
Considered to be one of the most influential poetic minds in history, Maya Angelou had a career that spanned five decades that also screenwriting and civil rights activism. Her portfolio has secured many prestigious awards and she has attained over 50 bachelor degrees.
4. Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Marie Curie is considered one of the brightest minds in history. Born in Warsaw, Curie studied physics at the University of Paris where she would go on to become the first female professor. Curie was first woman to win the lauded Nobel Prize and the first person – man or woman – to win two. Indeed, she changed the world not once but twice, founding the new science of radioactivity (a term coined by herself) and leading the discovery of two new elements – radium and polonium.
5. Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
What Herschel lacked in stature (she was just 4 foot in height), she made up for in science. As an astronomer, she was the first woman to discover a comet. This led her to be employed by King George lll, which made her the first woman to be paid for her scientific work.
6. Malala Yousafzai (1997-)
As a Pakistani school student, Yousafzai was shot in the head whilst campaigning for women’s rights. Yousafzai survived the shooting and with unwavering focus and determination, she has become a global figure for women’s rights to education, receiving numerous peace awards including the Nobel Peace Prize.
7. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97)
“Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.”
An acclaimed writer and philosopher, Wollstonecraft pioneered the liberation and education of women, allowing women of the future to shine brighter. She wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which was published in 1972 is regarded as one of the foundation texts supporting the equality of men and women.
8. J.K. Rowling (1965-)
The woman behind the Harry Potter franchise, Joanne Rowling is one of the best-selling authors of all time. Rowling’s genius has descended to the top of the world with a franchise worth an estimated $15 billion. The last four books of the Harry Potter series have broken all records and become the fastest selling books of all time. She is the recipient of several awards including the British Book of the Year Award and the Hans Christian Anderson Literature.
9. Helen Keller (1880-1968)
Keller was a political activist and American author. Although she became blind and deaf at a young age, she did not allow her dual-disability to dim her bright mind and would lead endless campaigns to destigmatise deafness and blindness. She was the first deaf-blind to attain a bachelor’s degree and is a shining example of overcome adversity.
10. Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994)
The final woman on our list is the only British female winner of the Nobel Prize, achieved by establishing the atomic structure of penicillin and Vitamin B12. Though her Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded in 1964, her most significant work arguably came in 1969 when after 35 years of work, she was able to map the structure of insulin, which would improve diabetic treatment.