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Marie Curie has topped a list of the 50 most inspirational women of all time. 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.

The survey was conducted by Your Life, the campaign to encourage more teenagers to study Maths and Physics post 16.

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, Theresa May and Michelle Obama 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.”

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

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