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Influential women recognised in reader poll

Scientist Marie Curie has been voted the woman with the most significant impact on world history.

The Polish-born Curie became the first person to win two Nobel prizes – one for physics and one for chemistry.

She also made discoveries that launched cancer treatments and developed the use of X-rays in surgery.

Experts in 10 fields were asked to nominate 10 women they believed had made the biggest impact and this created a list of 100 women for readers of the BBC History Magazine to choose from.

In second place was Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist who protested against racial segregation in America, with British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst third.

Scientist Ada Lovelace, a computer programmer and mathematician, and crystallographer Rosalind Franklin were in fourth and fifth places respectively.

Patricia Fara, president of the British Society for the History of Science, nominated Curie and said: “She [Curie] was the first woman to win a Nobel prize in physics, first female professor at the University of Paris, and the first person – note the use of ‘person’ there, not ‘woman’ – to win a second Nobel prize.

“The odds were always stacked against her. In Poland her 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.”

BBC History Magazine deputy editor Charlotte Hodgman said: “The poll has shone a light on some truly extraordinary women from history, many of whose achievements and talents were overlooked in their own lifetimes.”

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