Maria Skłodowska-Curie was nominated by Patricia Fara, the head of the British Society for the History of Science, who said that the Polish scientist had the odds “always stacked against her”.
Fara said that, in Poland, Skłodowska-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”.
Born in Warsaw in 1867, Skłodowska-Curie spent most of her life in France.
She graduated from the Sorbonne. In 1903 she wrote a dissertation which became the first doctorate in science awarded to a woman in Europe.
In the same year, Skłodowska-Curie, her husband Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel, won a Nobel Prize in Physics.
In 1911, the same year she went on to become the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, winning the award in chemistry, she was denied election to the French Academy of Sciences.
Skłodowska-Curie devised a method to isolate radium and study its properties, a discovery which later paved the way for cancer therapy.
During World War I, together with her daughter Irene, she fitted ambulances with portable X-ray equipment, driving vehicles to the front.
She died in 1934 of aplastic anaemia, a bone marrow disease which was likely caused by high exposure to radiation.
BBC History Magazine tasked ten historians, all of them women, with nominating 100 people for a list of 100 women who changed the world. The magazine's readers ranked the women in an online poll.
US civil rights activist Rosa Parks ranked second, and British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst came in third.