Maria Skłodowska-Curie, physicist, chemist and two-time Nobel Prize winner, was voted the most influential woman in history in the British BBC History poll last year. She changed the world not once but twice, the justification reads.
Skłodowska-Curie topped the poll, ahead of Afro-American human rights activist Rose Parks and British suffragette movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst.
According to the poll results, the Polish scientist founded the new science of radioactivity – even the word was invented by her – and her discoveries launched effective cures for cancer
“Curie boasts an extraordinary array of achievements. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, first female professor at the University of Paris, and the first person – note the use of person there, not woman – to win a second Nobel Prize” – says Patricia Fara, president of the British Society for the History of Science, who nominated the Polish-born scientist.
Fara adds that the odds were always stacked against Skłodowska-Curie. In Poland her patriotic family suffered under a Russian regime. In France “she was regarded with suspicion as a foreigner – and of course, wherever she went, she was discriminated against as a woman”.
According to the poll results, “Maria Curie was a woman of action as well as enormous intellect”. During the First World War, she helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, and often drove them to the front line herself.
According to Olivette Otele from Bath Spa University, “Maria Skłodowska Curie and Rosa Parks were worlds apart as far as class and race were concerned. However, these two women’s stories bear an interesting resemblance”.
“Education changed their trajectories as 20th-century women in societies dominated by men. They both fought against prejudice and successfully carved out their places as committed educators” – Otele says.
Others who have made the list include mathematician Ada Lovelace, Florence Nightingale considered the creator of modern nursing, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Virgin Mary, writer Jane Austen, Princess Diana and the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Amelia Earhart.
The list of one hundred women was created based on the nominations submitted sent by 10 British historians, each of whom nominated 10 candidates. The readers of the magazine ranked the candidates.
Source: PAP – Science in Poland/Jakub Krupa/AB