7 incredible women you've never heard of who changed science forever

Sure, most people have heard of Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall and Sally Ride.

But for every female scientist whose work has been recognised and celebrated, there are thousands who have been accidentally or purposefully forgotten.

For a few, that might change, thanks to a beautiful new book, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World,” by artist Rachel Ignotofsky.

While she highlights some of the classic women in science, she’s also profiled some less familiar faces — and discoveries.

Here are 7 of our favourites.

Meghan Bartels wrote an earlier version of this post.

Florence Bascom: Helped us understand how mountains form

Florence Bascom (1862-1945) discovered her love for geology on a childhood trip with her father and a geologist friend of his.

She worked for the US Geographical Survey, particularly specializing in the Piedmont Plateau between the Appalachians and the Atlantic coastal plain. She was voted one of the top 100 geologists in 1906 in an edition of a magazine called, ironically, American Men of Science.

In addition to her research, she also taught several important geologists of the next generation at Bryn Mawr College.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: Figured out what the Sun was made of

Celia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) was the astronomer who discovered that the sun is made of hydrogen and helium.

She went to college in Britain for botany, then attended by chance a lecture given by a prominent physicist, which she found so intriguing she changed fields (the lecturer, Arthur Eddington, became an important mentor for her). She moved across the Atlantic to study at Harvard, where she spent the rest of her career.

Her dissertation was called 'the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy.' In addition to our sun, she also studied variable stars, taking more than a million photographs of them with her team.

Chien-Shiung Wu: Helped figure out how to enrich uranium

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) grew up in China, then moved to the US for her PhD studies.

She was recruited by the Manhattan Project during World War II. During her interview for the top-secret work, she was able to guess what they were researching from an equation left on a blackboard.

She helped figure out how to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear bombs. She was snubbed by the Nobel Prize committee for her work showing that nature isn't always symmetrical. (The Prize was awarded to two men who first floated the idea, even though she was the one who proved it experimentally.)

Esther Lederberg: Discovered that bacteria mutate randomly

Esther Lederberg (1922-2006) studied bacteria and viruses, helping her work by inventing a technique called replica plating, which made it easy to study certain bacterial colonies across a set of Petri dishes.

The technique contributed to a Nobel Prize for her husband.

From this work, she confirmed that bacteria mutate randomly, including acquiring resistance to particular antibiotics before ever having been exposed to that particular chemical.

She also discovered a type of virus called a lambda phage, which lies low in a cell until the cell is going to die from other causes. It's now used as a model for human viruses like herpes and tumour viruses.

Annie Easley: Helped write the code behind the Centaur rocket system

Annie Easley (1933-2011) planned to become a nurse, but was inspired to work for the precursor of NASA when she read an article about local twin sisters who worked there as human computers.

She became first a mathematician and then a computer programmer, working particularly on the code for the Centaur rocket launcher and navigation system.

She also tutored inner-city children (she had previously helped neighbours learn to pass Jim Crow voting tests) and worked on energy issues.

Patricia Bath: Invented a device that removes cataracts

Clotee Allochuku/Flickr
A recent science fair presentation about Patricia Bath.

Patricia Bath (1942- ) invented a device for removing cataracts that fog people's vision.

She also created the field of community ophthamology, which combines public health outreach with ophthamology. The strategy reduces rates of preventable vision loss, particularly in lower-income neighbourhoods.

The organisation she founded, the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, provides vitamin A eye drops to newborns.

And so many more ...

Tech Insider learned about all of these women from Rachel Ignotofsky's beautiful book, 'Women in Science,' which features full profiles of 50 scientists, plus tidbits on women in science more generally -- not to mention gorgeous illustrations.

She also compiled a great list of resources for learning more about any of these scientists.

The book is available for pre-order now; it will be released on July 26.

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