Follow the adventures of eight leading women in chemistry and celebrate the common element that catalysed their journeys: a life-changing, chance-taking, thrill-seeking love of science. Courtesy of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Women in Chemistry series.

Women in Chemistry: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

In 1978, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw became managing director of Biocon, a company which she set up from her garage. Biocon is now India's largest biotech company.

Women in Chemistry: Stephanie Kwolek

In 1965 DuPont was looking for its next big innovations, a product that would change people's lives. It assigned Stephanie Kwolek to go find one.

Women in Chemistry: Uma Chowdhry

Uma Chowdhry left her home in India to study chemistry in the United States. But after falling in love with materials science, Chowdhry decided to work in industrial research. She was fascinated by the possibility that her findings might end up in a practical application on the open market.

Women in Chemistry: Kathryn Kitty Hach Darrow

Kitty and her husband Clifford co-founded Hach chemical company, the company which introduced chemistry to the field of water analysis and ensured that clean water could be delivered to towns across the United States.  

Women in Chemistry: Mary Lowe Good

Mary Lowe Good pioneered an experimental technique called Mössbauer spectroscopy, which uses gamma rays to figure out the molecular structure of complicated compounds containing metal ions. Using this technique, Good was able to learn more in a day than she had previously been able to learn in a whole year.

Women in Chemistry: Mildred Cohn

Mildred Cohn transformed the study of enzymes, building her own high-tech instruments when the right ones weren’t available. She also helped pioneer the technique of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and instruments like NMR spectrometers, which enabled her to study how enzymes and other proteins behave during chemical reactions in the body.

Women in Chemistry: Nancy Chang

Through the airplane window 19-year-old Nancy Chang watched Taiwan disappear beneath her. Sixteen hours later the plane touched down in Boston. Chang had made up her mind: she would study biology.

Women in Chemistry: Paula Hammond

Paula Hammond creates technologies so small that you can’t see them with most microscopes—that is, until they save a soldier’s life on the battlefield, or illuminate light bulbs using stored solar power. She’s found polymers that increase the amount of power held by solar cells, and created materials that re-organise their own molecules.