Belfast Telegraph

Atlantic flyer Amelia Earhart, who landed in Northern Ireland, joins list of top 20 women history-makers

By Lucy Mapstone

Marie Curie has been voted the woman who has made the biggest impact on world history.

In a reader poll conducted by BBC History Magazine of 100 women who changed the world, the pioneering scientist came out top, above the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Diana, Princess of Wales, Emmeline Pankhurst and the Virgin Mary.

Amelia Earhart, who landed in a field in Ballyarnett in Londonderry in 1929, making her the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, features in the top 20.

Curie, a Polish-born French scientist, was the first person to win two Nobel prizes - one for physics and one for chemistry. She carried out important research into radioactivity, a term she coined.

Her discoveries launched effective cures for cancer and helped in the development of X-rays in surgery.

The magazine asked experts in 10 different fields of human endeavour to each nominate 10 women they believe had the biggest impact, to create the list of 100 women for readers to choose from.

Curie was nominated by Patricia Fara, president of the British Society for the History of Science, who said: "She was the first woman to win a Nobel prize in physics, first female professor at the University of Paris, and first person - note the use of person there, not woman - to win a second Nobel prize.

"The odds were always stacked against her. 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."

The top 100 women were chosen for their achievements in areas including politics, science, sport, technology and literature.

In second place was Rosa Parks, who protested against racial segregation in America, with leader of the British suffragette movement Pankhurst third.

Ada Lovelace, a computer programmer and mathematician, and crystallographer Rosalind Franklin were in fourth and fifth places respectively.

Thatcher, the UK's first female Prime Minister, is in sixth place, while Diana, Princess of Wales, is at number 15.

Others in the top 20 include Mother Teresa, writers Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen, aviation pioneer Earhart and Queens Victoria and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

BBC History Magazine deputy editor Charlotte Hodgman said: "The poll has shone a light on some truly extraordinary women from history, many of whose achievements and talents were overlooked in their own lifetimes.

"I'm sure the full list will provoke conversation and debate."

The full list appears in the latest BBC History Magazine.

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