5 incredible women whose genius changed the world

1. Hypatia

Hypatia was a genius. She was a mathematician, astronomer and inventor. Our babe had some serious brains and was also ballsy as fuck. She’s one of, if not the first recorded women in mathematics.

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Yeah, we haven’t even started and you already know she’s the greatest…

Hypatia was born sometime between 350-37 BC in Alexandria (An Egyptian province). Her Dad, Theon, was one of the last members of the Library of Alexandria (an incredibly fancy palace of knowledge). A famed mathematician, Daddy Hypatia wasted no time teaching his little girl everything he knew.

Now, Hypatia was super smart and she quickly surpassed her Dad’s (pretty bloody genius) intellect… and so the student became the teacher.

People came from miles around to hear her teach and in around 400BC she became the head of The Platonist School in Alexandria where she lectured on mathematics and philosophy.

But this is history….so it doesn’t stay good (sorry)

See, back then science and the like was considered a pagan pursuit by Christians, so Hypatia’s teachings were not going down well with the locals. In fact they were not fans to the extent that they formed a mob and killed her…

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Death of the philosopher Hypatia, by Louis Figuier

But her work lived on; her influence monumental. Sadly we don’t have any of her surviving work, but she had a real impact on her peers, who talked about her with a reverence that was awe inspiring.

 

2. Dorothy Hodgkin

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Dorothy 🙌🏻

Dorothy is a scientific marvel. Fact. She specialised in X-Ray Crystallography which basically is a way to decode the structure of biomolecules. This was important in recreating synthetic structures in 3D to replicate those biomolecules. Like, for example, PENACILLIN! INSULIN! And other stuff people need to not die…

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Science, successfully staying the only thing keeping us from death!

Dotty studied chemistry at Oxford in 1928, and left with a first class honours degree. This was pretty bloody amazing at the time, as there were limited spaces available for women to study at degree level (damn you patriarchy!) In fact Dotty was the third woman to receive a first in the history of Oxford university!

After smashing it with her degree, Dotty went on to study her doctorate at Cambridge where she became interested in X-Ray Crystallography.

She came back to Oxford in the late 1930s to continue her research and also to teach a new generation of Crystallographers.

In 1945 Dotty had her first big breakthrough…Penicillin! She pinned down the molecular structure of penicillin; a revolution in medicine that would save countless lives.

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Dorothy’s model of the stucture of penicillin

But Dotty didn’t stop! She later cracked the coding for insulin and B12, for which she was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. She is still the only British woman to receive this honour.

During all of this Dorothy pioneered new techniques to better capture the structures of even more complex biomolecules. Medicine owes one Dotty one hell of a debt!

 

3. Mae Jemison

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Mae looking BADASS!

Mae is famous for being the first African American woman in space, but that ain’t all she’s done (though it is still quite a lot…)

Born in 1956, she grew up with a fascination for space travel and was obsessed with the coverage of the Apollo missions, as well as being a massive Trekkie (Lieutenant Uhura was her absolute hero)

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And who can blame her?

Mae was also a shit hot dancer, training in every type of dance imaginable. But she also had that passion for science, she struggled with what to do….be a dancer or doctor? Her Mum told her:

‘You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer’

That settled things. Mae trained to be a doctor at the Cornell Medical College and got her degree in 1981. As soon as she’ got that under her belt Mae joined the Peace Corps (because Mae is the best like that)

After The Peace Corps, Mae applied to NASA; the dream of going to space one she just couldn’t get out of her head. And then she got the call…she was going to be an astronaut!

In 1992, Mae was a mission specialist on mission STS-47 on the space shuttle Endeavour. Mae often started her recordings in space with the classic trekkie line

‘Hailing frequencies open’.

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Uhura would be proud

After she returned to earth Mae quit NASA and went on to found her own company The Jemison Group that develop science and technology for everyday use. Another one of her company’s developed a device that mean doctors can monitor a patient’s day-to-day nervous system functions, which was developed from NASA technology.

But Mae still can’t quite shake the stars. She’s the principal of the 100 Year Starship project who aim to travel to the next solar system by the next 100 years AND are looking at developing ways to improve recycling & develop more efficient and green fuel solutions (Peace Corps for life!)

Live Long and Prosper Mae, we think you are an absolute legend.

 

4. Wang Zhenyi

Wang Zhenyi is was born in 1796 in China. She was fascinated by eclipses, which were still a mystery back then, but Zhenyi knew it weren’t no magic making that happen!

She wrote a paper on what she she thought was going on and created a model for those less wordy; using a globe, a mirror and a lamp, Wang showed how the eclipse was made by the moon blocking out the sun. Simple!

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She also understood that the earth wasn’t flat, that it was a globe and that the earth rotated around the sun. This was revolutionary thinking for the time.

But Wang didn’t stop there, at the age of just 24, she wrote a book called Simple Principles of Calculation…I don’t know what you were doing at 24, but I know I wasnt spending my time moulding mathematics..

With all this science and maths, you’d be forgiven for thinking Wang was just a giant brain….but she had a huge heart to match. She wrote political poetry, touching on topics like gender equality and in her additional spare time she worked to ease the suffering of China’s poor.

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How can one twenty something do this much!?!

She died aged only 29. But in her short life she published so many papers on maths, the solar system as well as some lush poems. Her work influenced countless numbers of clever clogs who came after our girl.

I’ll leave you with this mic drop of a poem by Wang:

It’s made to believe, Women are the same as men; Are you not convinced, Daughters can also be heroic?

5. Alice Ball

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Alice in her graduation gear 😍

Born in 1892 Alice grew up in Seattle and took an interest in chemistry when helping her photographer Grandfather develop shots in his darkroom

Super smart and a tough cookie, she become both the first woman and the first African American to graduate from the University of Hawaii.

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Just casually breaking all the boundaries

With those barriers firmly broken, Alice moved onto a bigger task…saving Hawaii.

See Hawaii had an influx of patients suffering with leprosy, or Hansen’s disease (Mmmmbop) it got so bad that people with the disease were arrested and shipped off to a leper colony on an Island off the mainland! The only treatment was a very painful injection of oil made from chaulmoogra tree seeds…and it only relieved some of the symptoms.

But, Alice had a solution! When she was 24, Alice figured out a way to make the oil injectable! She isolated the ethyl esters of the fatty acids in the oil.

Sadly Alice died shortly after perfecting this method (likely from inhaling chlorine gas during research) One of her fellow peers at Hawaii university decided to be a total shit rag and tried to steal her research and pass if off as his own. BUT thankfully, one of Alice’s mates put that fucker in his place.

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I WILL CRUSH YOU!

The treatment worked. It meant people affected with the disease could now go home and see their families, and Hawaii stopped arresting their sick and chucking them on an island to forget about them.

Alice’s method of treatment, known as The Ball Method *snigger* was so good that it was used until the 1940s to treat patients with leprosy.

Her influence was huge in combating this disease, though it did take the University of Hawaii NEARLY 90 YEARS to recognise Alice’s achievements by putting a plaque to her on a chaulmoogra tree outside the University.

 

Sara Westrop is passionate about making history accessible (and fun!) for everyone. A disabled, queer writer from just outside London, who loves writing about the unsung chapters of history.

The Worst Women In History (Vol 1)

Here at F Yeah History we’re all about celebrating women, but some people are just unavoidably the worst.

Sure maybe they achieved a lot, maybe they are badassery incarnate, and maybe they accomplished a lot… but they’re also kinda, sorta massive dicks

So without further ado here are the wort women in history:

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I made this all cute to make up for the horrors ahead – you’re welcome 😘

Ching Shih

Former sex worker turned pirate, Ching Shih ran one of the largest and most feared fleet of pirates in the world. Ching Shih

Ching was married to the leader of the Red Flag Fleet, a much reviled and respected pirate armada. When her husband was killed during a tsunami, Ching took over.

If her men thought they were going to have it easy with a woman at the helm, they were sorely mistaken. To say Ching ran things with an iron fist would be an understatement:

Chings code:

-Disobeyed an order? you’re getting beheaded
– looted plunder? Beheaded
– stole from an allied town? Beheaded.
– raped a female prisoner? oooo you best know you’re getting beheaded 

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And you thought your boss was bad…

But despite all the rules, Ching Shihs pirates were allowed to marry female captives. BUT if their leader heard that they were in anyway messing their new wives around… well hopefully they weren’t to emotionally attached to that whole ‘having a head’ thing.

Yet Ching’s steely control worked and under her rule The Red Flag fleet grew in both infamy and size.

By 1808 Ching had amassed an armada of thousands and was in control of well over 70,000 men. It was then the Chinese government felt that maybe they’d let things go a bit far, and that Ching needed to be reigned in.

An imperial fleet was sent after Ching and she met them head on; the government didn’t stand a chance.

By the end of the battle Ching had actually expanded her fleet (capturing Chinese sailors and offering them the choice of joining her ranks or a bloody death) Ching Shih fighting

For two years the Chinese government tried to destroy the Red Flag, even roping in the British Navy for help. But they just couldn’t beat Ching.

The Chinese knew that things had gone fully tits up when The Admiral of the Chinese navy actually committed suicide rather than face capture by Ching.

So they opened up amnesty negotiations with Ching. But rather then ask for clemency Ching fought for the right to retire.

Obviously nobody said no (if we’ve learnt anything, it’s don’t fucking mess with a Pirate Queen) And so Ching retired to the country where she spent the remainder of her days running a brothel and gambling.

Caterina Sforzia

Born in 1463 Caterina was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Milan; one of Europe’s most notorious dicks.

The Duke loved nothing more than planning out horrifying torturous deaths for his enemies, tearing them limb from limb, burying them alive – whatever took his fancy.

…Caterina took after her Dad.

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The fucking death stare on this one!

At just 10 Caterina was married off to the Pope’s nephew and a few years later the pair left for the life at the Vatican.

There Caterina was transformed from a teenager to a powerful and famously ruthless courtier.

But Caterina’s world was turned upside down in 1484 when the Pope died and suddenly shit got very real, very quick.

Riots and rebellions spread like wildfire. With Caterinas husband off fighting fires she was left to hold down a fortress whilst seven months pregnant. As you do.

Fortunately (or not, if you were her enemy) this was the famously ruthless and cunning Catarina; she took to life at war like a duck to water.

Having proved her tenacity and strength, people started to turn to Caterina rather than her far weaker husband.

It’s unsurprising then that when her husband was named ruler of Imola and Forli, it was kind of obvious who was really in control.

This was exhibited for all to see following a revolt in Forli. Caterina rode out to Forli to take control of the situation and nice lady that she was, she personally oversaw every detail of the brutal torture and execution of those involved.

oh dear god no.gifBut brutal executions can only quell a people for so long and following a tax increase the people of Forli had had enough.

in 1488 Caterina’s husband was murdered by the Orsis family while he ate dinner (the Orsis were one of Forli’s top noble families – it’s all very Game Of Thrones)

Caterina and the children were now prisoners, but if the Orsis thought a woman and some kids were going to be easy captives then they were veeeery wrong.

Caterina tricked the Orsis into letting her out of confinement, offering to help them convince other strongholds to surrender to the Orsis. They agreed and even let her go in alone to bargain with one fortress so long as Caterina left her children behind as hostages.

Once inside the stronghold, Caterina obviously immediately started organising an attack on the Orsis…

When the Orsis reminded her that if she went ahead with her plans they’d kill her children, Caterina climbed the fortress walls, hiked up her skirt and explained that they were welcome to kill her kids, hell kill them in front of her if they really fancied, because she had the tools to make more.

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Mum of the year right here!

Somehow, despite Caterina, the kids stayed alive.

Caterina herself managed to hold out within the fortress, and sent out a message to Forli:

‘My people, people of Forlì! I tell you to punish and kill all enemies. For it I will consider you my good brothers for evermore. Do not hesitate to act, and fear nothing, because the deed will benefit you and your children. And if you fail to act you will regret it in a few days.’ 

The veiled threat worked!

The people of Forli took to the streets and Caterina left the fortress where she was reunited with her children (who I bet were just thrilled to see her…) Unsurprisingly Caterina’s next step was to hunt down her new enemies and brutally kill them, as was her style.

Linda Hazzard

Born in 1867 in Minnesota, Linda Hazard was in many ways a woman ahead of her time. A female doctor in an era when this was unheard of; a successful author and driven as all hell to boot!

But before we get out the  marching band and erect this bitch a statue, I should also point out that Linda murdered a metric shit ton of her patients.

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God damn it Linda!

You see, Linda believed that starvation could cure all diseases.

She practiced this theory in Minneapolis, but after one of her patients actually DIED of starvation, Linda was threatened with legal action.

Ironically she was saved from jail, as she didn’t actually have a medical license.

Though she escaped jail this incident was enough to convince Linda to get the hell out of dodge. So she moved to Washington, where thanks to a legal loophole she could practice medicine legally.

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Yup, seems legit

In Washington Linda opened up Wilderness Heights, a health farm in the Countryside where she promised to fix all medical ailments through starvation. Linda’s  passion – which verged on fanaticism – quickly helped her build up a fan base of loyal followers.

Life at Wilderness Heights was tough for the guests (who paid though the nose to be there). In addition to a diet of essentially no food, Linda also helped them ‘tackle disease’ by enforcing daily enemas, scalding hot baths and massages that verged on beatings.

Some of Linda’s (mainly already really ill) patients just couldn’t take it and soon the emiciated and bruised bodies started to pile up.

Yet people continued to come.

Linda’s ‘health farm’ had became like some kind of cult; the danger was clear, the deaths abound, but followers kept coming. Two such followers were Dorothea and Claire Williamson, wealthy socialite sisters with a hypochondriac streak.

The sisters arrived healthy but within just months, one would be dead.

Under Linda’s supervision the two women entered into a strict diet of almost no sustanace. Within two months the women weighed just 70 pounds. Yet they choose to remain in Linda’s care, most likely as they had deteriorated to much to refuse her.

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I’m sorry, it gets worse

But help was coming!

Dorothea had sent a cryptic letter to an old Nanny. Worried the women came to visit the sisters. On arrival she was told that Claire was dead and she found Dorothea 50 pounds and close to death.

Thanks to the sisters social standing, Claire’s death registered with the authorities (though more than 14 people had already died of starvation under Linda’s care)

Linda was stripped of her license to practice medicine and given 2-20 years in prison.

She of course got out of jail after 2 years.

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God damn it Linda!

Linda traveled to New Zealand where she once more set up shop and peddled starvation as medicine. Several years later she moved back to Washington and set up another ‘health camp’

Again patients died (Linda was fined a whole £100!). Luckily after almost a decade the place burned to the ground in 1935.

Linda appears to have taken this as a sign and slowed down, which clearly wasn’t good for her health.

In 1938 she took ill and died after trying to starve herself back to health. Shame.

Elizabeth Bathory

Now whilst the prior entries on our list have committed dickery in the name of wealth, power and progress… Elizabeth Bathory was just a plain old dick.

Like really. She’s the literal worst.

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THE WORST!

Elizabeth came from a long lineage of distinguished Hungarian nobility and so, naturally, as a noble woman in the 1500s she was married off at 15.

Her new husband was famed for his cruelty, but fortunately Elizabeth was fully on board with this!

Legend has it that Elizabeth’s new husband lovingly gifted her with her own personal torture chamber (because fuck Barbies dream house!)

Together the couple blissfully lived life in thier castle, occasionally brutalising errant wrong doers from the villages they ruled over.

Then in 1604 Elizabeth’s husband died and, now in her 40’s, she was left to rule alone.

Elizabeth relished her solo role. Everything was going swimmingly until 1610, when word started to spread that Elizabeth had some… er, nefarious hobbies.

That winter a group of soldiers came to Elizabeth’s home and arrested her. From here shit went downhill fast.

Now, it was well known that Elizabeth was partial to a bit of light murder and torture, but it soon transpired that she had been getting up to some seriously bloody high jinks.

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Like this…but x10

Elizabeth was accused of murdering over 600 people, most young women. She did this in many and various ways, but here are just some:

– stuck red hot needles under peoples nails and skin.
– starved people to death (Hey Linda!)
– made one woman cook and eat her own flesh
– sticking red hot irons in very very uncomfortable places – – – covering girls in honey and leaving them outside on a hot sunny day to be slowly devoured by insects. 

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I told you. THE WORST

She was tried for murder, but due to her influential family ties was spared the death penalty (the same cannot be said for her closest servants, who were all executed)

Elizabeth spent the remainder of her days locked within the walls of her castle. Bricked up inside her quarters with only a crack in the wall for air and food.

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I mean, I guess it’s a happy ending?

Wow this was really interesting! How can I found out more? Volume 2 will be coming very soon, so keep an eye out! In the meantime you can discover one kickass woman a day on my Twitter. And a huge thank to the lovely Tweeps that suggested women for this article, you guys really are the best!!

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