Lise Meitner was a physicist who laid some of the groundwork for the atomic bomb. She studied independently, since the university of the time did not accept female students, and ultimately took an exam to prove she understood the material. I happen to think skipping the hassle of university classes sounds like a swell idea, personally.
She worked with Max Planck and Otto Hahn (sometimes for free), served as a nurse in World War I, before returning to her research in Berlin.
She lost her job as acting head of the chemistry department at the Kaiser Wilhelm institute after the rise of Hitler, and his race laws, and escaped to the Netherlands.
The fact that she did not share the Nobel Prize with Otto Hahn for work on Nuclear Fission is contributed largely to her gender.