16 5 / 2013
Biochemist Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori (1896-1957) and her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori (1896-1984) were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1947 for their work on how the human body metabolizes sugar.
(Source: Flickr / smithsonian)
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30 4 / 2013
Esther Gerston and Gloria Ruth Gordon, early programmers working on the ENIAC computer in 1946. Photo from the US Army, via NPR, in:
Laura Sydell, “Blazing the Trail for Female Programmers,” a story about Sarah Allen, leader of the team that created Flash animation.
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27 4 / 2013
Martha Cowles Chase (November 30, 1927 – August 8, 2003) was an American geneticist famously known for being a member of the 1952 Hershey-Chase team which experimentally showed that DNA rather than protein is the genetic material of life. She was greatly respected as a geneticist. Chase was born in 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1950 she received her bachelor’s degree from The College of Wooster and in 1964 her PhD from the University of Southern California.
In 1952 she was a young laboratory assistant to American bacteriophage expert Alfred Hershey at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from the Carnegie Institution of Washington. This was where the well-known Hershey-Chase experiment was performed. Unfortunately, a series of personal setbacks throughout the 1960s ended her science career prematurely. She spent decades suffering from a form of dementia that robbed her of short-term memory. She died of pneumonia on August 8, 2003, at the age of 75.
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11 4 / 2013
Margaret D. Foster (1895-1970) working in the lab in 1919. Foster was the first woman chemist to work for the United States Geological Survey, starting in 1918, just three days after receiving her A.B. from Illinois College. Foster’s studies primarily focused on the analysis of natural waters. Her work on the Manhattan Project resulted in two new quantitative methods of analysis, one for uranium and one for thorium.
(Source: Flickr / smithsonian)
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05 4 / 2013
“Women engaged in research work for the benefit of French soldiers”
Red Cross nurses, 1917.
This is right on the cusp of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. These nurses were about to get much busier. They may have even succumbed to the devastating infection themselves. Just some food for thought.
Public domain image, wikipedia commons
Original source: Nat’l Geographic Magazine., Vol 31, pg 327 (1917) (click this link and see what else was published in this issue!)
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02 4 / 2013
Google doodle celebrates Maria Sibylla Merian’s 366th birthday.
Maria Sibylla Merian was a 17th century German-born naturalist, entomologist, and botanical illustrator. She observed and documented the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly and traveled to South America to study and paint the wildlife.
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27 3 / 2013
Florence B. Seibert (1897 – 1991) was an American biochemist known for isolating a pure form of tuberculin used in the standard TB test. She is a member of the U.S. National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Born in Easton, Pennsylvania, Seibert is said to have read biographies of famous scientists as a teenager which inspired her interest in science. As a child she contracted polio which left her walking with a limp, though the disability did not interfere with her life or work.
Seibert did her undergraduate work at Goucher College and earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Yale University. At Yale she studied the intravenous injection of milk proteins under the direction of Lafayette Mendel. She developed a method to prevent these proteins from being contaminated with bacteria.
Seibert served as an instructor in pathology from 1924-28 at the University of Chicago and was hired as an assistant professor in biochemistry in 1928. At the University of Chicaco she developed a method for purifying the crystalline tuberculin derivative under the supervision of Esmond R. Long. This purified protein derivative (PPD) was used in the standard TB test. The previous tuberculin derivative, Koch’s substance, had produced false negative results in tuberculosis tests since the 1890s because of impurities in the material.
In 1932, she became assistant professor in biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania at the Henry Phipps Institute and rose through the ranks to full professor and professor emeritus in 1959, when she retired.
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13 3 / 2013
In which two women started the Audubon Society and ended the deadly plume trade.
During the Victorian era, it became very fashionable for women to wear plumes in their hats. These plumes came from various birds, such as woodpeckers, egrets, owls, and herons, with thousands being killed each year. The plume trade was a sordid business. Hunters killed and skinned the mature birds, leaving orphaned hatchlings to starve or be eaten by crows.
Harriet Hemenway was a Boston socialite. A passionate amateur naturalist, she was known for setting out on birding expeditions wearing unthinkably unfashionable white sneakers. In 1896, after reading an article about the plume trade, Harriet and her cousin Minna Hall sent out circulars to the wealthy women of Boston urging them to stop wearing feathered hats and inviting them to join a society for the protection of birds. Some 900 women joined, thus forming the Massachusetts Audubon Society that year. More states followed with their own Audubon societies.
These two women brought attention to the harm of the plume trade and helped to influence protective legislature. In 1900, Congress passed the Lacey Act, which prohibited transport across state lines of birds taken in violation of state laws, but it was poorly enforced. Victory came with the Weeks-McLean Law in 1913, which finally ended the plume trade.
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02 3 / 2013
Hattie Elizabeth Alexander (1901 – 1968) was an American pediatrician and microbiologist. She is known for her development of the first effective remedies for Haemophilus influenzae infection, as well as being one of the first scientists to identify and study antibiotic resistance.
She worked for the United States Public Health Service and the Maryland Public Health Service, and then enrolled at Johns Hopkins University medical school, where she received her M.D. in 1930. In 1932, she became an instructor and researcher in the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University, where she spent her entire professional career.
In the 1940s, Hattie began researching Haemophilus influenzae (Hib), a nearly always fatal disease in infants and young children at the time. She developed an improved antiserum for the disease; by combining antiserum therapy with the use of sulfa drugs, and developing standardized techniques for diagnosis and treatment, she and her associate Grace Leidy helped reduce the mortality rate from Hib from nearly 100 percent to less than 25 percent. Later, Alexander and Leidy studied the effect of antibiotics on Hib, finding streptomycin to be highly effective. The combined use of the antiserum, sulfa drugs, and antibiotics significantly lowered the mortality rate from Hib.
In the course of her research on antibiotics, Alexander noted and reported the appearance of antibiotic-resistant strains of Hib. She concluded, correctly, that this was caused by random genetic mutations in DNA which were positively selected through evolution; she and Leidy demonstrated the occurrence of transformation in the Hib bacillus, leading to resistance.
In 1964, she became the first woman to be elected president of the American Pediatric Society. She died of liver cancer in New York City in 1968.
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27 2 / 2013
Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) was the first woman appointed to the faculty of Harvard University (in 1919) and was a leading expert in the field of occupational health. She was a pioneer in the field of toxicology, studying occupational illnesses and the dangerous effects of industrial metals and chemical compounds on the human body.
In 1893 Alice received her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School, and then completed internships at the Minneapolis Hospital for Women and Children and the New England Hospital for Women and Children. She also traveled to Europe where she studied bacteriology and pathology. In 1897 she moved to Chicago, where she became a professor of pathology at the Woman’s Medical School of Northwestern University.
Alice became a member and resident of Hull House in Chicago, the settlement house founded by social reformer Jane Addams. Living side by side with the poor residents of the community, she became increasingly interested in the problems workers faced, especially occupational injuries and illnesses. The study of ‘industrial medicine’ (the illnesses caused by certain jobs) had become increasingly important since the Industrial Revolution of the late nineteenth century had led to new dangers in the workplace. Her findings influenced reforms that helped to improve the health of workers.
When Alice became the first woman faculty member at Harvard, the NY Tribune headline read “A Woman on Harvard Faculty—The Last Citadel Has Fallen—The Sex Has Come Into Its Own”
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