7 sensational British boffins

Mary Anning Mary Anning  1799 – 1847

Fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist. She unearthed new specimens on Dorset’s Jurassic coast – including a complete pterodactyl – to sell to support her family. Celebrated for her detailed drawings and knowledge of anatomy, she was nevertheless barred from the men-only Geological Society of London and did not always receive full credit for her work.

Ada LovelaceAda Lovelace 1815 – 1852

While she referred to herself an Analyst & Metaphysician, today she can be seen as a pioneering computer programmer. The daughter of poet Lord Byron she collaborated with eminent mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage. Writing about Babbage’s mechanical calculator or ‘Analytical Engine’ invention, she highlighted its potential as a general-purpose computer.

Lydia BeckerLydia Becker 1827 – 1890

Famous for her votes-for-women campaigning, Becker was also passionate about botany. Self-taught, from 1863 she corresponded with Darwin on flower reproduction theories, sending him local plant samples to inform his work. In 1866 she published ‘Botany for novices’. In 1867 she founded Manchester’s Ladies Literacy Society to enable women, barred from university, to study scientific matters.

Margaret MurrayMargaret Murray 1863 – 1963

A pioneering archaeologist, from 1902 she went on field trips to Egypt bringing artefacts back to Manchester Museum to catalogue. She delivered public lectures, including the first public unwrapping of mummy by a woman. She mentored other women in the field and wrote books on Egyptology aimed at the general public. Up until age 80 she continued cataloguing Egyptian antiquities and her lecturing work.

Dorothy HodgkinDorothy Hodgkin 1910-1994

Biochemist who used of X-ray crystallography to discover the three-dimensional structures of biomolecules. She confirmed the structure of penicillin, insulin & vitamin B12. In 1964 she became the first (and still the only) British woman to be awarded the Nobel prize. The Daily Mail reported “Oxford housewife wins Nobel”. She devoted much of her later life to championing scientists in developing countries.

Rosalind FranklinRosalind Franklin 1920-1958

Biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, the polio virus, coal and graphite. She is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. It took decades for her contributions to our understanding of DNA to be officially recognised.

Maggie Aderin-PocockMaggie Aderin-Pocock born 1968

Space scientist. Her impressive CV includes stints for private corporations, government contracts and academic research. She is currently leading on a project to develop satellite instruments to help better monitor climate change. The space woman off the telly, she is co-presenter of The Sky at Night. She tours inner city schools to inspire budding astronauts, engineers and scientists.