Sofia Kovalevskaya: the first major Russian female mathematician, responsible for important original contributions to analysis, differential equations and mechanics, and the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe. She was also a nihilist.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt: an American astronomer. A graduate of Radcliffe College, Leavitt went to work in 1893 at the Harvard College Observatory in a menial capacity as a ‘computer’, assigned to count images on photographic plates. Study of the plates led Leavitt to propound a groundbreaking theory, worked out while she laboured as a $10.50-a-week assistant, that was the basis for the pivotal work of astronomer Edwin Hubble. Leavitt’s discovery of the period-luminosity relation of Cepheid variables radically changed the theory of modern astronomy, an accomplishment for which she received almost no recognition during her lifetime.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell: a British astrophysicist who, as a postgraduate student, discovered the first radio pulsars. Her supervisors received the Nobel Prize: she did not.