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Marie Curie voted top female boffin

Scientifically radiant, New Scientist poll shows

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Marie Curie has topped a poll to name the most notable female scientist of all time, beating Brit biophysicist Rosalind Franklin into second spot.

Polish-born Curie, later a French citizen, is celebrated for her part in the discovery of polonium and radium, as well as pioneering work in the treatment of cancers using radioactive isotopes.

Curie was the first female Nobel laureate (Physics, 1903), and picked up the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. She attracted 25.1 per cent of the New Scientist poll of 800 scientists and members of the public, conducted on behalf of cosmetics company L'Oreal.

Rosalind Franklin, who helped uncover the structure of DNA, attracted 14.2 per cent of the vote, while mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria (interpreted by Rachel Weisz in forthcoming movie Agora, as the Telegraph notes) was honoured with 9.4 per cent.

Astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell was fourth, with 4.7 per cent, followed by mathematician Ada, Countess of Lovelace (4.5 per cent), Austrian physicist Lise Meitner (4.4 per cent), British X-ray technique pioneer chemist Dorothy Hodgkin (3.8 per cent), mathematician Sophie Germain (3.7 per cent), American marine biologist Rachel Carson (3.3 per cent) and primatologist Dr Jane Goodall (2.7 per cent).

New Scientist editor Dr Roger Highfield, noting that just two of the list - Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Dr Jane Goodall - are modern "role models", said: "The poll indicates the vital need to celebrate and raise awareness of the many female scientists who have shaped modern science since Marie Curie - and who are making a bigger contribution than ever."

In case you're wondering just why L'Oreal commissioned the poll, it's responsible for the "For Women In Science" programme which, in collaboration with UNESCO, promotes greater female participation in the male-dominated world of science.

The company's Grita Loebsack explained: "The aim of the poll was to celebrate the contribution women have made to scientific research but also to highlight the lack of modern role models to encourage young women to pursue careers in science.

"It is through programmes such as For Women In Science that we hope to draw more attention to the pioneering scientific research undertaken by women around the world and provide more visible role models for the female scientists of the future." ®

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