Eleanor Arroway, ContactRead about another entry on the list.
Ellie Arroway, the main character of Carl Sagan's Contact book and movie, is an astrophysicist and radio telescope engineer in charge of the Argus project that is searching for extraterrestrial life. She eschewed traditional science to pursue her passion for SETI. After making contact with aliens and deciphering blueprints for a mysterious machine sent by them, she used her sheer stubbornness and intense belief in science to convince the world governments to build the machine. She is a skeptic that questions the world and pushes hard for scientific answers. After the first American slated to use the machine was killed by sabotage Ellie stepped up to face the unknown danger of the machine and the more mundane terror of fanatics trying to stop the project.