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Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie tops ‘women who changed the world’ list

Marie Sklodowka Curie (1867 - 1934) in her laboratory. She shared a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband Pierre for their work in radioactivity. In 1911 she became one of the few people to be awarded a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemisty for her discovery of poloium and radium.
Hulton Deutsch | Corbis Historical | Getty Images
Marie Sklodowka Curie (1867 - 1934) in her laboratory. She shared a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband Pierre for their work in radioactivity. In 1911 she became one of the few people to be awarded a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemisty for her discovery of poloium and radium.

Scientist Marie Curie is seen as the woman who has had the most significant impact on world history, according to a new poll conducted by the BBC.

The Polish-born French physicist and chemist, who's renowned for discovering polonium and radium with her husband, took the crown in the poll, surpassing the likes of monarchs, activists and authors.

Curie also received recognition for her work in radioactivity and was the first person to be awarded two Nobel Prizes ever.

Hot on the heels of Curie's top ranking came activists like Rosa Parks and Emmeline Pankhurst, who came in second and third respectively; and professional pioneers and leading figures Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin and Marie Stopes, who were also featured in the top 10.

Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (L) | Crystallographer Rosalind Franklin (M) | Civil rights heroine Rosa Parks (R)
Getty Images: Fotosearch/Archive Photos (L) | Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group (M) | Bettmann/Bettmann (R)
Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (L) | Crystallographer Rosalind Franklin (M) | Civil rights heroine Rosa Parks (R)

The list by the BBC History Magazine was based on a shortlist that readers voted on. The magazine asked professionals from 10 separate fields of human endeavour to each select and nominate 10 women they saw as having had the greatest impact on world history; which helped craft the shortlist for voters.

According to Immediate Media, BBC History Magazine is Britain's "biggest-selling history brand" with magazine readership reaching up to 300,000 and print circulation coming in around 95,000.

The president of Britain's largest learned society, Patricia Fara, who nominated Marie Curie, describes the two-time Nobel Prize-winning scientist as one who had the odds "always stacked against her."

"In Poland (Curie's) patriotic family suffered under a Russian regime. In France she was regarded with suspicion as a foreigner — and of course, wherever she went, she was discriminated against as a woman," said Fara, president of the British Society for the History of Science, in a statement.

Here are the top 20 pioneers ranked from the BBC History Magazine's "100 Women who changed the world" poll:

  1. Marie Curie
  2. Rosa Parks
  3. Emmeline Pankhurst
  4. Ada Lovelace
  5. Rosalind Franklin
  6. Margaret Thatcher
  7. Angela Burdett-Coutts
  8. Mary Wollstonecraft
  9. Florence Nightingale
  10. Marie Stopes
  11. Eleanor of Aquitaine
  12. The Virgin Mary
  13. Jane Austen
  14. Boudicca
  15. Diana, Princess of Wales
  16. Amelia Earhart
  17. Queen Victoria
  18. Josephine Butler
  19. Mary Seacole
  20. Mother Teresa

For the full list of pioneers featured in the "100 Women Who Changed the World" poll, read the full analysis by BBC History Magazine.

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