Most People Can't Name Even One Female Scientist - Here Are 10 To Take Notice Of

19/05/2014 19:28 | Updated 20 May 2014

They've uncovered some of planet earth's mysteries and their discoveries have helped to shape the world we live in, but could you name a female scientist?

No? You're not the only one.

A new survey has found that a quarter of people are unable to name a single famous female scientist, either living or dead.

marie curie scientist

Marie Curie

Preliminary findings from a European-wide survey of more then 1,100 people, including scientists, indicate staggering levels of ignorance about female contributions to science.

Participants in the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and other western European countries filled out questionnaires about their science knowledge.

About 75% of people were able to name at least one female scientist while around 25 per cent were unable to think of one.

Physicist and chemist Marie Curie, who was the first woman to win a Nobel prize, is by far the most well known, but the researchers believe this is mainly due to her association with the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity.

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The results of the study will be presented at a conference organised by the Women in Science Research Network, to be held at the Royal Society in London this Thursday and Friday.

Our cluelessness regarding female scientists may be down to the lack of women working in the field.

Despite making up 46% of the overall UK workforce, government figures show that women hold just 15.5% of jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fields.

Previously speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Belinda Parmar, CEO and founder of Lady Geek, said that the lack of women in STEM could be down to the education girls receive.

“I have a daughter who is 6 years old. From an early age she is presented, by a range of sources, with the dilemma of if I’m not pretty, then what am I?

“We need to stop defining girls by their looks and focus on what they can do and the impact they can and will have on the world” she said.

The out-dated idea that women can not make a difference to society may also be to blame for our ignorance about female scientists through history, who perhaps haven't always received the same praise as their male counterparts.

Science journalist Priya Shetty said: "Women's contributions have always been overlooked whether in politics, literature or science.

"This poll shows that it's more important than ever that female scientists have a duty to provide young girls with strong role models, both past and present."

Professor Cynthia Burek, the deputy director of the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Chester undertook the study.

Burek told The Independent on Sunday that some scientists who had been questioned during the survey had resorted to naming their university colleagues, as they were unable to think of enough famous names.

She added that without efforts to promote them, female scientists would sink into obscurity.

"They're not part and parcel of the education system. We're not giving youngsters role models. Some of these women have had fantastic lives – why does nobody know about them?

"We're hoping this might encourage people to look at these lives – at women who have been killed while doing research, who have had their research stolen, who have so fundamentally changed our ideas."

10 Female Scientists That Changed Society
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