Skip to Main Content


Women History Month 2024 banner

Kalpana Chawla (1962-2003)


Kalpana Chawla was a NASA astronaut.  She was born in Karnal, India. She died on February 1st, 2003 over the southern United States when Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew perished during entry, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing. She had a Bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India, 1982; a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from University of Texas, 1984; and a Doctor of Philosophy in aerospace engineering from University of Colorado, 1988.

Ana Roque de Duprey (1853-1933)

Ana Roque

Ana Roqué de Duprey was born in Puerto Rico in 1853. She started school in her home at age 13 and wrote a geography textbook for her students, which was later adopted by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico. Roqué had a passion for astronomy and education, founding several girls-only schools as well as the College of Mayagüez, which later became the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. Roqué wrote the Botany of the Antilles, the most comprehensive study of flora in the Caribbean at the beginning of the 20th century and was also instrumental in the fight for the Puerto Rican woman’s right to vote.

Lillian Gilbreth (1878-1972)

Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian Moller Gilbreth was an American psychologist and industrial engineer at the turn of the 20th century. She was an expert in efficiency and organizational psychology, the principles of which she applied not only as a management consultant for major corporations, but also to her household of twelve children, as chronicled in the book Cheaper by the Dozen. Her lengthy list of firsts includes first female commencement speaker at the University of California, first female engineering professor at Purdue, and first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.


Edith Clarke (1883-1959)

Edith Clarke

Edith Clarke was a pioneering electrical engineer at the turn of the 20th century. She worked as a “computer,” someone who performed difficult mathematical calculations before modern-day computers and calculators were invented. Clarke struggled to find work as a female engineer instead of the ‘usual’ jobs allowed for women of her time; however, she became the first professionally employed female electrical engineer in the United States in 1922. She paved the way for women in STEM and engineering and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.

Mary Engle Pennington (1872-1952)

Mary Engle Pennington

Mary Engle Pennington was an American chemist at the turn of the 20th century. At a time when few women attended college, Pennington completed her PhD and went on to work as a bacteriological chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Shortly after arriving at the USDA, Pennington became chief of the newly established Food Research Laboratory. During her 40-year career at the USDA, Pennington’s pioneering research on sanitary methods of processing, storing, and shipping food led to achievements such as the first standards for milk safety as well as universally accepted standards for the refrigeration of food products.

Katherine Johnson (1918-2020)

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson, an African-American space scientist and mathematician, was a leading figure in American space history and made enormous contributions to America’s aeronautics and space programs by her incorporation of computing tools. She played a huge role in calculating key trajectories in the Space Race -- calculating the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, as well as for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon. 

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)

Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu was a leading figure and pioneer in the field of physics. A Chinese immigrant to the United States, Wu was the first women faculty member hired in the physics department at Princeton University.

She later took a job at Columbia University and joined the Matthan Project, which resulted in the creation of nuclear weapons. She is best known for conducting the Wu experiment which proved that identical particles do not always behave in the same manner.

She was awarded the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978 and was nicknamed the "First Lady of Physics."

Valentina Tereskova (1937- )

Valentina Tereskova

Valentina Tereshkova is an engineer, a member of the Russian State Duma, and a former Soviet cosmonaut. On June 13, 1963, she became the first woman to travel into space. She orbited the Earth 48 times in just three days.

She later served in the Communist Party and represented the USSR at numerous international events. Tereshkova remains the only woman to have been on a solo space mission.

LibGuide Author

Ellen Ochoa (1958- )

Ellen Ochoa

In 1993, Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Prior to her astronaut career, she was a research engineer and inventor, with three patents for optical systems. Ochoa is also the first Hispanic (and second female) to be named director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992)

Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was at the forefront of computer and programming language development from the 1930s through the 1980s. One of the crowning achievements of her 44-year career was the development of computer languages written in English, rather than mathematical notation — most notably, the common business computing language known as COBOL, which is still in use today.  

Maria Klawe (1951- )

Maria Klawe

Despite growing up as a self-described outcast, Maria Klawe pursued her passion for technology and became a prominent computer scientist. Klawe was the first female president of Harvey Mudd College and worked hard to ignite passion about STEM fields amongst diverse groups. During her tenure at Harvey Mudd College, her work has helped support the Computer Science faculty's ability to innovate and has raised the percentage of women majoring in computer science from less than 15 percent to more than 40 percent today.

Lydia Villa-Komaroff (1947- )

Lydia Villa-Komaroff

Lydia Villa-Komaroff is considered to be a trailblazer in the field of molecular biology. She faced many adversities throughout her lifetime — at one point, an advisor told her that women did not belong in chemistry, fortuitously inspiring her to switch her major to biology — but she pursued her passion in spite of opposition. In 1978, Villa-Komaroff made waves with a published paper detailing her most notable discovery — that bacteria could be engineered to produce human insulin. She currently serves as the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) at Cytonome/ST.

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

Sally Ride

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride transformed history when she became the first American woman to fly into space. After her second shuttle flight, Ride decided to retire from NASA and pursue her passion for education by inspiring young people. As a result, she founded Sally Ride Science, an organization dedicated to supporting students interested in STEM. Ride passed away in 2012, but her work continues to inspire young women across the country.

Mae Jemison (1956- )

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison is a doctor, engineer, and former NASA astronaut. In 1992, she became the first black woman to travel into space. Jemison excels in many scientific fields, has authored several books, and even appeared on an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.

Currently, she leads the 100 Year Starship Project through the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This project is dedicated to ensuring that human travel to another star is possible in the next one hundred years.


Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Marie Curie 1867-1934

Marie Curie was a Polish-born French physicist, famous for her work on radioactivity and twice a winner of the Nobel Prize. She was awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics along with her husband, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel. She was the sole winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and she is the only woman to win the award in two different fields.

Mary Golda Ross (1908-2008)

Mary Golda Ross

Mary Golda Ross was born in 1908 in Park Hill, Oklahoma, a town near Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Her parents were Cherokee citizens. After high school, Mary Ross attended Northeastern State Teacher’s College in Tahlequah where she graduated in 1928 with a degree in mathematics. Between 1932 and 1938, she completed graduate coursework at Colorado State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Colorado) which culminated in a master’s degree in mathematics.  Ross worked at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. She worked on many projects, including the submarine-launched Polaris missile and the Agena launch vehicle which carried military, intelligence, and civilian payloads to space.

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin was a British scientist best known for her contributions to the discovery of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a constituent of chromosomes that serves to encode genetic information. Franklin also contributed new insight on the structure of viruses, helping to lay the foundation for the field of structural virology.