Women pioneers in medicine

Published 7:02 AM ET, Thu May 9, 2013
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CNN's "Life's Work" series features innovators and pioneers who are making a difference in the world of medicine. Click through the slides to learn more about women who have made significant contributions in their fields. Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Physicist Marie Curie (1867-1934) won two Nobel prizes. Her observations of radiation suggested a relationship between radioactivity and the heavy elements of the Periodic Table. Curie's painstaking research with her husband, Pierre, culminated in the isolation of two new, heavy elements -- polonium, which they named for Marie's homeland Poland, and the naturally glowing radium. Radioactivity has led to many advances in medicine. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman doctor in the United States. She said that she went into medicine because a close friend who was dying told her that having a female physician would have spared her the worst suffering. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) was England's first female physician. She opened the New Hospital for Women at the St. Mary's Dispensary in 1872, which was later called the London School of Medicine for Women. Frederick Hollyer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was the first woman to obtain a medical degree in Italy. She developed the Montessori system of education for young children, which encourages exploration, expression and freedom from restraints. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1958) is best known for her part in the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. The British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer worked on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. Vittorio Luzzati, National Portrait Gallery, London
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), reformer of English nursing, received the Order of Merit for her tireless efforts during the Crimean War. She was the first female recipient of this honor. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
American doctor Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) developed the first system of tests, known as the Apgar score, to assess the health of newborn babies. She was also the first woman to be a full professor at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Sex therapist Ruth Westheimer has made a career of talking openly about sex, educating and advising the world about intimate matters. When she did her doctorate, "Nobody talked about contraception," she told Dr. Drew Pinsky in 2012. John Lamparski/Getty Images
Antonia Novello was the first female surgeon general of the United States, as well as the first of Hispanic origin. During her time in office, she helped launch the Healthy Children Ready to Learn Initiative and spoke out against underage drinking. Scott Gries/Getty Images
Francoise Barre-Sinoussi shared the 2008 Nobel medicine prize for the discovery of HIV. She is a virologist at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Miguel Villagran/Getty Images
Biological researcher Elizabeth Blackburn was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering (along with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak) how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/Getty Images
Current U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin founded a rural health clinic in Alabama that kept running despite two hurricanes and a fire. Alex Wong/Getty Images