Aprille J Ericsson Jackson (1963 - ) is an American Aerospace Engineer, and the first African-American to receive a PhD in engineering at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. She was born and raised in Brooklyn. She received her BS in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from MIT, her Masters in Engineering, and her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University. She won the Women in Science and Engineering award in 1997 for the Best Female Engineer in the federal government, and the Washington Award for recognized engineers whose accomplishments have “pre-eminently promoted the happiness, comfort, and well-being of humanity” in 2016. She has over a decade of experience in structural dynamics and controls of spacecraft missions. She has also helped manage science instruments set to take flight such as the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), which will observe ice sheet elevation change, sea ice freeboard, and vegetation canopy height on the James Webb Space Telescope which will operate one million miles away from Earth. She is currently an aerospace engineer at NASA GSFC, and instrument manager for a proposed mission to bring dust back from the Martian lower atmosphere to Earth. She also is the Goddard manager for the federal program that enables small businesses to support NASA, and collaborate with universities, to compete for opportunities to provide technology that solves identified research and development challenges. She is an adjunct professor at HU in the School of Engineering, and is a known mentor and motivational speaker.Read More
Jeanette Epps (1970 - ) will become the first African American space station crew member in the summer of 2018. Born in Syracuse, New York, she graduated LeMoyne College with a BS in Physics in 1992, and University of Maryland with a MS in 1994 and PhD of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering in 2000. She became a NASA Fellow during graduate school where she authored several journal and conference articles describing her research. She worked for Ford where she received both a provisional patent and a U.S. patent for her research. After leaving Ford, she joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for seven years working as a Technical Intelligence Officer. In July of 2014 she served as an aquanaut aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 18 undersea exploration mission, which lasted nine days. In 2011 NASA selected her to be an astronaut. She has been assigned to her first spaceflight, Expedition 56/57, scheduled to launch in May 2018, as a flight engineer on Expedition 56, and where she will spend up to six months at the International Space Station for Expedition 57.Read More
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer known for her contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. Born in West London, she was educated at the Lindores School for Young Ladies in Sussex and the St Paul’s Girls’ School, which taught physics and chemistry. She excelled at mathematics, science, German, Latin, and French, and cricket and hockey. In 1938 she entered Newnham College in Cambridge, studying chemistry within the Natural Sciences Tripos in Cambridge, before joining the University of Cambridge with a research fellowship for physical chemistry laboratory. She accepted a research position in 1942 from the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, where she studied the porosity of coal using helium to determine its density, and helped to classify and predict performance for fuel purposes. During this residency she lived with friend and mentor, former student of Marie Curie and then a French scientist and refugee, Adrienne Weill’s boarding house, until she moved in with her cousin Irene Franklin where she volunteered as an Air Raid Warden seeing to the welfare of people during air raids. After earning her Ph.D. in 1945 at the end of WWII, Adrienne introduced her to Marcel Mathieu, the director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, which connected her to Jacques Mering at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat in Paris, where she became a postdoctoral researcher. Working with Mering, she became an accomplished X-ray crystallographer, applying X-ray crystallography to amorphous substances. In 1950 she was granted a three-year fellowship at King’s College where she worked at the Biophysics Unit, directed by John Randall who assigned her to work with Maurice Witkins (with whom Rosalind had well-documented friction) and Raymond Gosling, a Ph.D. student assistant, on X-ray diffraction studies, which eventually led to the double helix theory of DNA. Together, Rosalind and Witkins discovered the two forms of DNA, which she named “A” and “B”, and which they split between them to focus on separately. The landmark X-ray diffraction picture “Photo 51” has been called one of the “most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance ever taken”. After finishing her work on DNA, she moved to Birkbeck College in 1953, where she oversaw her own research team, leading pioneering work on the molecular structures of viruses. She died in 1958 at the age of 37 of ovarian cancer.Read More
Samantha John and Jocelyn Leavitt are the co-founders of Hopscotch,a learn-to-code application for children ages eight to twelve (and all ages, really), and the first programming language for a mobile device. Samantha John studied applied mathematics, english and comparative literature at Columbia University, and went on to work as an engineer and then as a Ruby on Rails developer, where she was one of the only women in the company. She noticed the lack of programming opportunities for girls, so she built an app called Daisy the Dinosaur, in HTML5, where drag-and-drop tools teach children to make Daisy do tricks through simple programming functions. She realized that an iOS program would be more malleable, so she created the first visual programming language for a mobile device. She co-founded Hopscotch with Jocelyn Leavitt. Jocelyn Leavitt grew up in Honolulu, HI before going to Dartmouth for undergrad. She then taught 7th-11th grades, and founded a real estate company. Realizing her interest in engineering after school, she likes to think of Hopscotch as a way to compensate for that lost time. She was tired of watching children mindlessly consuming games, and wanted to see them building their own games as a game itself. For Leavitt, the app is less about computer programming, and more about building and creating, which empowers people and helps to make creating technology more accessible. Samantha and Jocelyn met in NYC through a mutual friend, and worked together at a TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon where they got a lot of attention. Together they launched Hopscotch in 2013; it was downloaded 20,000 times in its first week, and over two million times since. It has been likened to Legos, as part tool, part toy, part learning experience. Hopscotch is only available on iPhone and iPad, and allows the user to grab-and-drop, assemble, and code cute and colorful characters to move across the screen, change shape, and is entirely open ended: users can upload what they’ve built into the app, ranging from little animations to programmatic art to games. Trial and error, not aiming for perfection, exploration and having fun are key elements that empower users to build their skills. Even Hopscotch itself wasn’t “perfect” by Jocelyn’s standards, but Samantha insisted that it was ready, and they are thankful for each other and their differences which make them stronger as a team.Read More
Kathryn Parsons (1982 - ) is a British tech entrepreneur, known for Decoded, a London-based tech startup, founded on the belief that technology is for everyone: it aims to increase digital literacy through programs such as Code in a Day. Kathryn grew up in Highgate, and continues to live there. Interested in language and linguistics, she received her BA in Classics at Downing College in Cambridge in 2003. In 2004 she worked as the UK head of channel planning for Ogilvy, a NYC based advertising, marketing, and public relations agency, until she left to co-found Scarlett Mark, another advertising agency, but one which applies digital technology to branding (ie, “Cherry Girl” the virtual/real-world character on MTV). In 2011, she co-founded Decoded with Alasdair Blackwell, Steve Henry, and Richard Peters, and conducted their first workshop 6 months later. Decoded claims to train novice participants to code in one single day. Their aim is to “simpify and accelerate that learning experience”, as Parsons puts it – to decode the code. They have opened up branches in NYC, Sydney, as well as smaller “pop-up” locations in more than 30 cities. Decoded has taught over 100,000 people so far. Programs include Data in a Day, Hacker in a Day, Innovation in a Day, Tech in a Day, and CodeEd in a Day (for teachers). She says “Digital enlightenment is empowering. I speak Japanese, French, Italian and Mandarin – to me, coding is just another language.” and ‘Why be a consumer when you could be a creator?’Read More
Carol Shaw (1955- ) is a retired video game developer, and was one of the first female video game designers. She was born and raised in Palo Alto, California. Her father was a mechanical engineer, and she preferred playing with her brother’s model railroad set over her own dolls. When her father got laid off, her mother went back to work at the Stanford Library, working in serial records and periodicals. She played arcade games at the miniature golf course, specifically the first commercial arcade game, Computer Space, where she would partner with her brother or a friend to control all the buttons. She first used a computer in high school, and discovered that she could play text-based games on it. She became interested in computers, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1977 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a year later received a master’s degree as well, in Computer Science. She was hired by Atari to program games for the new VCS console. While working for Atari in 1978, although her official job title was Microprocessor Software Engineer, she designed Polo (unreleased), 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, and Video Checkers. She left Atari in 1980 to work for Tandem Computers, but was contacted by Activision just over a year later to join their team: at Activision, she designed Happy Trails, and River Raid, which is universally regarded as a masterpiece of game design for the Atari 2600. She returned to Tandem from 1984-1990 before retiring early, which she credits to the success of River Raid.Read More
Limor “Ladyada” Fried. (1979 - ) is an engineer, open-source hardware advocate, and founder and CEO of Adafruit Industries. She studied at MIT, majoring in electrical engineering and computer science. While at MIT, she wanted to create a place online for learning electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels, so she founded Adafruit in 2005, in her dorm room. Limor designs and manufactures the electronics, and then she gives away the recipes, while enables her customers to purchase kits and supplies: everything from beginning to end, to learn about electronics. She focuses on the fun of making and building. She is grateful for the internet as a tool for sharing and communicating: YouTube, Instructables, and Blogger helped to empower and inspire the community which continues to build and improve upon her designs. She believes customers should be part of their shared community, an “ecosystem of innovation”. She is regarded as a leader of the open-source hardware movement. Adafruit, a 100% female owned company, now has over 100 employees in NYC and a 50,000 square foot factory. Adafruit is ranked #11 in the top 20 USA manufacturing companies, and is #1 in NYC according to Inc. 5000’s “fastest growing private companies”. Limor was the first female engineer on the cover of WIRED magazine, and was awarded Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. She was a founding member of the NYC Industrial Business Advisory Council.Read More
Ada Lovelace (Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace) (1815-1852) was an English mathematician, writer, and the first computer programmer. She was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Milbanke (later Baroness Wentworth). Shortly after she was born, her father divorced her mother and left England, and died eight years later. Despite spending much of her childhood ill, her talents in mathematics and logic were encouraged by her mother. When she was 12, she researched birds, wings, and flight, wrote the book, Flyology to illustrate her findings, and built her own set of wings; she knew that to power them, she would have to learn about steam and machinery. Her tutor, Mary Somerville, introduced her to Charles Babbage, another mathematician, and formed a long working friendship with him. She contributed to his proposed mechanical general purpose computer, the Analytic Engine, which he never built. She recognized that the Analytic Engine had applications further than calculation, and she designed the first algorithm for this machine. She approached technology as a collaborative tool, and considered how individuals and society can and could relate to it. She began preparations for creating a model of the brain to investigate how it gives rise to thoughts and feelings, likely in part as an investigation of her own sanity or lack thereof: her mother had been obsessed with what she perceived to be insanity in her father, and therefore, Ada’s “potential madness”. She never completed this project, but did consult electrical engineer Andrew Crosse about it. Her interests in mathematics blended with what she called “poetical science” led her to being a self-described “Analyst and Metaphysician”. She married William King in 1835, who introduced her to several scientists and also Charles Dickens. She died at the age of 36 of uterine cancer, and was buried next to her father. The computer language, Ada, created on behalf of the United States Department of Defense, was named after her. (Portrait painted by Margaret Sarah Carpenter, 1835).Read More
Heather Payne (1987 - ) is a Canadian entrepreneur, founder of Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou. She grew up in Toronto where she worked at McDonalds. In high school, she paid for her prom dress by selling custom-printed t-shirts. She planned to join a Fortune 500 company after graduating from Richard Ivey School of Business in 2009, but she spent her last semester in Hong Kong and delayed her return to Canada. She stayed in Asia, eventually moving to Xiamen in China, studying international relations and learning to code. She returned to Toronto in 2010, and attempted to work in the corporate world but quickly realized that it wasn’t the right fit for her. She moved to Los Angeles in 2011, and took a Python workshop for women (PyLadies). Inspired, and empowered, she returned to Toronto and started Ladies Learning Code, a not-for-profit that operates coding workshops for women in over 24 cities in Canada. The courses are one day long, and have one instructor to every four participants, which now number over 10,000 in total. There are now also youth programs, Girls Learning Code, and Kids Learning Code, as well as Canada’s first travelling computer lab, the code:mobile. Drawing from what she learned from Ladies Learning Code, HackerYou was launched in 2012, as a long-form learning experience, and the only bootcamp run by women, although 30% of the participants are male.. Full-time and part-time courses throughout the year are now run out of 12,000 sf facility in Toronto. She turns 30 this year, and has already been listed as one of Canada’s top 100 Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network.Read More
Sally Ride (1951-2012) was an American physicist, astronaut, the first American woman in space, the youngest American in space (at the age of 32), and the first known LGBT astronaut. She grew up in Los Angeles, where she received a scholarship and graduated from the private school Westlake School for Girls in 1968. She attended Swarthmore and University of California LA before attending Stanford University and graduating with a BA in English and Physics (1973), a Master of Science (1975), and a PhD in Physics (1978). She focused on astrophysics, free electron lasers, and the interaction of X-rays with the interstellar medium. While at Stanford, she answered an ad in the student newspaper, along with 8,000 others: in 1978 she was one of six women selected to join NASA’s space program. She served as the ground-based capsule communicator for the second and third space shuttle flights. On June 18, 1983, aboard the space shuttle Challenger, she became the first American woman in space, and the third woman in space. After she helped to develop the robotic “Canadarm”, she was the first to use the it in space, and used it to retrieve a satellite. She logged more than 343 hours in space, and was preparing for her third Challenger mission when the Challenger disaster occurred. She was then assigned to the Rogers Commission which investigated the accident, and is credited with ascertaining that the O-rings’ rigidity at low temperatures led to the cause of the explosion. She was assigned to NASA Headquarters as Special Assistant to the Administrator for long-range and strategic planning. In 1987, she left NASA to work for Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989 she left to become the professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the California Space Institute. She started NASA’s EarthKAM program, which enabled middle school students to take photos of Earth and our moon using the camera on the International Space Station. She then co-founded Sally Ride Science, which created science programs and publications for children, specifically girls, and encouraged them to pursue careers in STEM. She co-wrote children’s science books with her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, whom she had met when they were aspiring tennis players in college. She was added to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003. She died in 2012, at the age of 61 of pancreatic cancer.Read More
Carla Meninski is a former video game designer, and was one of two female engineers at Atari to develop video game cartridges in the early 1980s. Carla learned programming in high school, encouraged by her mother who was a programmer. Initially interested in mathematics, she attended Stanford University, but her interests in neuropsychology and brain modelling led her to graduate in Psychology in 1977. Interested in vision, and in creating, she presented animation ideas to Atari, and was hired in 1980, but was soon directed toward videogame programming instead. At Atari, she headed the production of Warlords (Atari 2600), and coded Dodge ‘Em, Star Raiders, and Tempest. She also worked for Electronic Arts and other game publishers before starting her own programming company. When she and a colleague had a bad experience with another programmer stealing their code, she then became interested in intellectual property rights. She went back to school, graduated from George Washington University Law School, and began practicing law in 2004. She teaches courses on international financial law at the London School of Economics, and specializes in contract disputes, trade secrets, fraud, and financial law and regulation.Read More
The Mercury 13 were thirteen women, the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs), who were privately selected by William Randolph Lovelace II, funded by world-renowned aviator Jacqueline Cochran, to undergo the same tests as the male astronauts in Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program (1958-1963). After Lovelace worked on the tests for NASA’s male astronauts, he became interested to compare results in female participants. They were named the Mercury 13 as a comparison to the Mercury 7 (the selected male astronauts), but although they underwent some of the same physical and psychological screening tests as the male astronauts, they were never trained as astronauts, and they never flew in space. Pilot Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb was the first to be invited, in 1960, and ultimately was the only participant to pass all three testing phases. Cobb and Lovelace selected 25 women out of 700 (rejecting anyone with under 1,000 hours of flight experience), and 13 of them passed the Phase 1 physical examinations. These tests were designed around a lack of understanding of what astronauts would actually experience in space: the tests were often invasive, uncomfortable, stressful, and exhausting. NASA came under significant criticism after Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963, but no American women were accepted into the space agency until 1978; Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983.
These 13 women were: Jerrie Cobb, Myrtle Cagle, Janet Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, Wally Funk, Sarah Gorelick Ratley, Janey Briggs Hart, Jean Hixson, Rhea Hurrle Woltman, Gene Nora Stumbough Jessen, Irene Leverton, Jerri Sloan Truhill, and Bernice Trimble Steadman.
Pictured (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman.Read More
Jean E Sammet (1928 - ) is a computer scientist who developed the FORMAC programming language. Having attended the Julia Richman High School after being turned away from the Bronx High School of Science because she was a girl, she received her BA in mathematics and political science from Mount Holyoke College in 1948, her MA in mathematics from University of Illinios in 1949, and later received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke College in 1978. She taught one of the first programming courses in the country at Adelphi College from 1956-1958. After supervising the first scientific programming group at Sperry Gyroscope from 1955-1958, she worked for Sylvania as a staff consultant for programming research and as a member of the original COBOL group. She then joined IBM in 1961 where she developed FORMAC, the first widely used computer language for symbolic manipulation of mathematical formulas. She was promoted from Programming Technology Planning Manager for the Federal Systems Division, to Software Technology Manager in 1979. She founded the ACM Special Interest Committee on Symbolic and Algebraic Manipulation in 1965. She published “Programming Languages: History and Fundamentals”, a standard book on its topic, and called an “instant computer classic” in 1969. She received a Computer Pioneer Award in 2009. She was the first female president of the Association of Computing Machinery from 1974 to 1976. She is currently 88 years old and is retired, but still a member of the National Academy of Engineering.Read More
Janese Swanson (1958 - ) is an inventor and software developer of toys and games for girls. She grew up in San Diego, the second oldest of six children, raised by her mother after her father died in the Vietnam War. She took care of her younger siblings, and learned to repair broken toys and appliances. Although she had interests in typically “male” jobs (paper boy, astronaut) her grandfather convinced her to become a model, where she discovered a talent for magazine design and layout, as well as the superficial and destructive values of that world. She graduated from San Diego State University in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, focused in education. She worked as a teacher until she was one of many teachers let go after budget cuts. While working as a flight attendant, she convinced a local computer store to donate laptops so that she could teach her female coworkers how to use them. She worked as a substitute teacher in the cities she frequently flew to during her years as an attendant. Throughout her life she earned a total of seven academic degrees, including a Ph.D. in organization and leadership (her thesis was on gender issues in product design, play patterns, and gender preferences). In the late 1980s she worked for Brøderbund to help develop computer games including The Treehouse, The Playhouse, and the original Carmen Sandiego. In 1992 she left Brøderbund to start her own company, Kid One For Fun, where she developed the Yak Bak (Yes! Entertainment) and Talkboy (Tiger Electronics). In 1995 she founded Girl Tech, which creates toys and products for girls with technology-heavy components, such as the Friend Frame, the Snoop Stopper Keepsake Box, Me-Mail Message Center, Zap N’ Lock Journal, and Swap-It Locket; Girl Tech also publishes books on technology for girls, and works with community groups, such as developing a technology curriculum for Girl Scout councils. She has since sold the company to Radica Games (Mattel) for 6million, in addition to licensing other technologies to Hasbro and Sega. She is currently an art teacher in Del Mar San Diego.Read More
Susan Kare (1954 - ) is a graphic designer and early pioneer of pixel art, who helped define the language of graphical user interfaces, and created many of the interface elements for the 80s Apple Macintosh. Born in Ithaca, NY, she went to Mount Holyoke College for her BA in art, and then received her Ph.D. in design from New York University. She moved to San Francisco for a curatorial job at the Fine Arts Museum until she received a call from a friend from high school, Andy Hertzfeld, inviting her to work for Apple in 1982. She designed user interface graphics and fonts, including the Chicago typeface (used in Classic Mac OS and the first four generations of the iPod), the Geneva typeface, the Monaco typeface, the arrow, the paintbrush, the pointing hand, and the symbol on the Command key (which was commonly used at Swedish campgrounds to denote an interesting sightseeing destination).. Her fonts were the first to challenge the monospace digital text: she spaced her letters proportionally. She went on to work for NeXT (Steve Jobs’ next company after Apple), working with Microsoft (where she created the card deck for Windows 3.0 solitaire game, as well as the icons for Notepad and various Control Panels) and IBM (where she created icons and design elements for OS/2). In 2007 she created the icons for Facebook’s “Gifts” feature (which initially donated profits to the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation). She was hired by Pinterest in 2015 as a product design lead in their creative department, responsible for web and app interfaces. In 2015 the MoMA acquired her archive of graph paper drawings which served as sketches when she worked for Apple. Her prints, stationery and notebooks are sold at the MoMA Art store. She currently heads a digital design practice in San Francisco.Read More
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) was a Chinese immigrant to America, where she began her work with the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. Her biggest contribution to the world of science was a discovery that overturned a widely accepted law at the time. In science, “laws” are the most widely accepted and replicated observations in existence; so proving a scientific law wrong is an arduous task. The law was known as the Principle of Conservation of Parity (basically a very complicated way of proving the idea of symmetry) which assumed that particles that are mirror images of each other will act in identical ways.
Wu’s colleagues, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung Dao Lee, proposed an alternate theory and approached Wu to help them prove it. Wu accepted their offer and carried out several experiments using cobalt-60 that further proved the existing law was wrong. Her experiments were critical in that she was able to show that one particle was more likely to eject an electron than the other and they were therefore not symmetrical. Her observation had overturned a 30-year belief and shattered the conservation of parity law. Yang and Lee never recorded her observation and instead went on to win a Nobel Prize for their discovery. Wu was given no mention, though it was her experiment that truly disproved the foundational law that allowed further scientific fields to be opened up.
Barbara Liskov (1939 - ) is an American computer scientist who won a Turing award in 2008 and developed the Liskov substitution principle. After earning her BA in mathematics at UC Berkeley in 1961 she went on to become one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in computer science, from Stanford University. Her thesis was a computer program to play chess endgames. She then moved to Boston to work at the Mitre Corporation in Bedford, MA on computer design and operating systems, and creating the Venus Computer. She left Mitre for a professor position at MIT, where she focused her research on creating more reliable computer systems, designing and implementing CLU programming language, and then creating the Argus language. In the 1980s, she became interested in using the internet as a tool: she has since focused largely on distributed systems, which use several computers connected by a network. Together with Jeannette Wing, she developed the Liskov substitution principle, a new notion of subtyping. Liskov has been focusing in recent years on cyber security and protecting data.Read More
Dr. Erna Schneider Hoover (1926 - ) is an American mathematician who invented the computerized telephone switching system. She grew up in New Jersey, fond of the outdoors and traditionally boys’ sports; she became interested in science at an early age and was inspired by Marie Curie’s biography. She received a BA from Wellesley College in medieval history in 1948 before pursuing her Ph.D. at Yale in the philosophy and foundations of mathematics. Her 1951 dissertation was titled “An Analysis of Contrary-to-Fact Conditional Sentences,” a study of logic. She taught for a few years at Swarthmore College before relocating to New Jersey for her husband’s job. She was then hired as a researcher at Bell Laboratories in 1954. Bell Labs was just beginning to explore the development of electronic switching systems, to improve the telephone’s ability to take more phone calls. She was quite qualified for this task, and in fact, while recovering from giving birth to her second child, she created the ESS system which eliminated the danger of overload in processing calls, and for which she received a software patent in 1971. She was promoted as the first woman to Technical Department Head at Bell Laboratories in 1978. Hoover retired from Bell in 1987.Read More
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) was a scientist and cytogeneticist who discovered the “jumping gene”, focusing on maize as a model organism. She received a B.S. in 1923 from Cornell’s College of Agriculture, an M.S. in botany in 1925, and finished her Ph.D. in the new field of cytogenetics in 1927. To continue her research on corn chromosomes, she remained at Cornell as a professor, where she met Harriet Creighton in 1929. McClintock and Creighton worked together to prove the occurrence of chromosomal crossovers in corn, and that it increases genetic variation in the species. She studied the effects of X-rays, and how to cause mutations, on corn chromosomes, which led to her discovery of translocations, inversions, deletions and ring chromosomes in corn. She developed the first genetic map for maize, where she linked chromosomes to physical traits, and proved that genetic information can be suppressed between generations. She taught at the University of Missouri for five years, but felt that she would never be promoted. She left to join Marcus Rhoades and Milislav Demerec at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where she discovered the process of transposition (jumping genes) in corn chromosomes, the switching on or off of physical traits during reproduction. She stayed at Cold Spring Harbor until her death in 1992. She was the only woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, for the discovery of genetic transposition in 1983.Read More
Lydia Villa-Komaroff (1947 - ) is a molecular cellular biologist, and the third Mexican American woman in the US to receive a PhD in science. Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she was inspired by her uncle who was a chemist, and her mother and grandmother who loved plants and nature. She attended the University of Washington Seattle, initially as a chemistry major but was told that “girls don’t belong in chemistry”, and switched to biology. She moved to Washington D.C. and because Johns Hopkins University did not accept women, she received a B.S. in biology from Goucher. She then moved to Boston with her husband to attend MIT, completing graduate work in molecular biology. She became a founding member of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. She received her PhD in cell biology in 1975 before moving to Harvard to research recombinant DNA technology. She moved to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to continue her research when Cambridge banned DNA research (fearing a man-made epidemic). In 1977 she joined the insulin cloning team, and the following year published the first report showing that bacteria could be used to make proinsulin. When she left laboratory research, she taught for the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and then accepted a position at Harvard, before moving to Chicago to work at Northwestern as Vice President for Research and professor of neurology. She has served on the boards and committees of several major public and private institutions and biotechnology companies. She continues to be an inspiration and role model for women and students, quoted as saying “You’re never too old to need a mentor, and you’re never too young to be a mentor.”Read More