In Napoleonic France, a challenge was issued to explain why the sand on small glass plates settled into patterns when the glass was vibrated. The only entrant was Sophie Germain. It took her six years, but she eventually won with a pioneering paper on elasticity. Despite her work, she was never accepted by the male establishment of the time.
Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician and a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. Her research topics included Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry.