A Quiz Celebrating Women in Science and Pi Day!

Click here to print with ANSWERS.

1) Admiral Grace Hopper retired in 1986 at the age of seventy-nine, after her active duty had been extended several times, including once by an act of Congress.  The holder of more than thirty honorary degrees, she has both a college at Yale and a U.S. Navy destroyer named after her.  In what field did she distinguish herself?

2) The parent-child pairs of Nobel laureates include this two-time winner and her daughter, Irène.  Both women also shared awards with their husbands, the latter for discovering the first artificially created radioactive atoms.  Collectively, they are the family with the most Nobel prizes.

3) In 2017, actress Jodie Whittaker became the first female and thirteenth overall incarnation of the title character of this long-running television series.

4) The scoring system named for this pioneering anesthesiologist, which she devised in 1952, has saved countless lives.  As one authority noted, the subject did “more to improve the health of mothers, babies and unborn infants than anyone in the twentieth century.”

5) The late Maryam Mirzakhani was the first and to-date only woman to win this quadrennial award, the highest honor in mathematics.  Lauded as one of the greatest mathematical minds of her generation, her ground-breaking work spanned and influenced diverse disciplines, including hyperbolic geometry, topology and dynamics.

6) She was the first female professional astronomer and the first woman to discover a comet.  Originally serving as assistant to her brother, famous for his discovery of Uranus in 1781, the subject later pursued her own independent work.  She discovered eight comets in total, as well as several nebulae, and was awarded honorary membership in the Royal Society.

7) Marine biologist and climate change activist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson was named recently to the TIME100 Next list of emerging leaders.  Johnson, who Outside termed “the most influential marine biologist of our time”, earned her PhD at this prestigious oceanographic institution in San Diego, named for the founder of what became United Press International.

8) This Austrian-American actress was one of the most glamorous stars of the black-and-white film era.  She also was an accomplished mathematician and inventor, co-developing and patenting “frequency hopping” technology that paved the way for GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.  The subject was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

9) American scientist Eunice Foote conducted pioneering experiments in atmospheric chemistry that, while largely overlooked at the time, contributed to an understanding of the greenhouse effect.  Foote later devoted herself to the women’s rights movement, attending this important 1848 convention and signing its “Declaration of Sentiments”.

10) The home page of the institute named for this world-famous ethologist and conservationist states that she “has dedicated her life to helping our closest cousins from becoming extinct.”  Her work encompasses over sixty years of research at Gombe in western Tanzania.

11) Identify the films based on the brief descriptions below.

a) Radio astronomer Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is searching for extraterrestrial life (1997)

b) Oscar nomination for Octavia Spencer as NASA mathematician Dorothy Vaughan (2016)

c) Robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) investigates droids gone bad in a 2004 film based on Isaac Asimov’s stories

d) Amy Adams portrays linguist Dr. Louise Banks (2016)

12) The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, she is generally credited with writing and publishing the first computer program, devised for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in 1843.  With remarkable insight, many decades ahead of her peers, she realized that the new machines were much more than simple calculators.  As one example, she theorized that “the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity”.

13) Susan Orsega currently holds this position as head of the U.S. Public Health Service, well known to consumers of tobacco and alcohol.  Previous incumbents include Antonia Novello, Joycelyn Elders and Regina Benjamin.

14) “It would be hard to think of a more overlooked person in the history of palaeontology” was Bill Bryson’s assessment of this extraordinary English fossil hunter.  Her major finds included among the first ichthyosaurus, plesiosaurus and pterodactyl.

15) Pi Day was created in 1988 by Larry Shaw and others at this institution on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, which bills itself as “a community museum dedicated to awareness.”

16) In a 1952 speech, this marine biologist stated, “the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race.”  Her concern was amplified a decade later in a landmark book, one of the most influential in the history of science.

17) This ancient Alexandrian astronomer and philosopher was likely the world’s foremost mathematician during her lifetime.  While famous for her death at the hands of Christian zealots, she is better remembered as an early feminist and champion of intellectual values.

18) In 1983, this astronaut became the first American woman in space and the third overall.

19) After graduating with a double first in mathematics from Cambridge, Joan Clarke was hired for clerical work at Bletchley Park.  However, she was soon installed in Hut 8 with Alan Turing and a select few others, primarily working to crack this German cipher.

20) In 1849, she became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States.  The subject later founded a clinic serving women in the slums of New York and the Women’s Medical College.  As she once observed, “If society will not admit of women’s free development, then society must be remodelled.”


Closing with the words of Pi Day birthday honoree Albert Einstein…


Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities.