News & Media

Marie Curie named most inspirational woman of all time

Marie Curie has topped a list of the 50 most inspirational women of all time according to a survey carried out by Your Life, ahead of Inspiration Week. The Polish physicist and chemist, known for her pioneering research on radioactivity, was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes.

Florence Nightingale, one of the founders of modern nursing as well as a keen statistician, was voted into second place, in a poll of 2,000 people. Anne Frank who kept a diary of her life during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II came third, ahead of Emmeline Pankhurst, Queen Elizabeth II and J K Rowling.

Your Life campaign chair Edwina Dunn said: “Marie Curie and Florence Nightingale deserve this accolade of being named the most inspirational women of all time. They are two brilliant icons whose determination, intelligence and altruism, led incredible scientific advances that changed the world. We want a new generation to be inspired to follow in their footsteps.”

Margaret Thatcher was the highest-ranking Politician at ninth, whilst current Prime Minister Theresa May came 20th. Dame Kelly Holmes, Jessica Ennis-Hill CBE and Serena Williams were voted the most inspirational female athletes.

Seven in 10 said the success and prominence of high profile figures like Angela Merkel and Theresa May made them feel top political jobs were now more open to women. But over half of those surveyed still think there are many career fields still not open to women. Engineering, business, politics, law and computer science were cited as the top five career fields more open to females now than ever before.
Honesty was voted the most inspirational personal quality, followed by determination, empathy and then kindness. However kindness, empathy and honesty were also voted the top three signs of professional weakness. Dunn has called this ‘the Alan Sugar effect’.

Dunn continued: “Positive role models with inspirational qualities make the most profound difference in shifting perceptions of jobs and professions. We want more girls to consider a career in the sciences and be the role models and change makers of tomorrow.”

The survey was conducted ahead of Inspiration Week, which officially begins next Monday. There is a host of activities and new video releases taking place during the week to inspire you with the incredible life choices made possible through studying Maths and Physics. Plus an exciting social media competition #yourlifeinspiration with a host of great prizes offered by the Science Museum.

50 Most Inspirational Women
1. Marie Curie
2. Florence Nightingale
3. Anne Frank
4. Emmeline Pankhurst
5. Queen Elizabeth II
6. J K Rowling
7. Mother Theresa
8. Princess Diana
9. Margaret Thatcher
10. Jessica Ennis-Hill
11. Amelia Earhart
12. Joan of Arc
13. Judi Dench
14. Jane Austen
15. Michelle Obama
16. Queen Elizabeth I
17. Marie Stopes
18. Indira Gandhi
19. Rosa Parks
20. Theresa May
21. Kelly Holmes
22. Aung San Suu Kyi
23. Kate, Duchess of Cambridge
24. Oprah Winfrey
25. Ada Lovelace
26. Dawn French
27. Emma Watson
28. Serena Williams
29. Angelina Jolie
30. Hillary Clinton
31. Mary Berry
32. Billie Jean King
33. Aretha Franklin
34. Benazir Bhutto
35. Cleopatra
36. Karen Brady
37. Malala Yousafzai
38. Mary Quant
39. Maya Angelou
40. Marilyn Monroe
41. Katharine Hepburn
42. Billie Holiday
43. Debbie Harry
44. Venus Williams
45. Beyoncé
46. Carole King
47. Madonna
48. Bette Davis
49. Twiggy
50. Nigella Lawson