Since 1875 Wellesley has educated women scientists.

Wellesley's academic program was designed to meet the highest standards, with a primary emphasis on English, Mathematics, the Physical Sciences, and the Classics. Wellesley's physics laboratory for undergraduate instruction opened in 1878; it was the second such laboratory in the US, preceded only by MIT. Winifred Edgerton (class of 1883) earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at Columbia University in 1886, the first woman to earn any degree at Columbia. Dorothy Weeks '16 was the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics at MIT. Annie Jump Cannon (class of 1884) was the first woman awarded the National Academy of Sciences Henry Draper Medal, in 1931. In its 130-year history, Wellesley has had only 12 presidents, all women, two of whom were mathematicians.