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April 28: Hertha Ayrton, Inventor

British scientist and inventor Hertha Ayrton (Phoebe Sarah Marks), the first woman to be proposed for the fellowship of the Royal Society (in 1902), was born in Portsea, Hampshire, England, on this date in 1854. Ayrton was refused admission to the Society because, as a married woman, she had no legal status under British law. Four […]

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February 15: A Geneticist and Ethicist

Molecular biologist Maxine Frank Singer, who raised early alarms about the ethical issues involved in recombinant DNA research and organized the 1975 Asilomar Conference, which issued guidelines for dealing with those issues, was born in New York on this date in 1931. Singer was president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington from 1988 until 2002, […]

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October 12: Mildred and the Molecule

Mildred Cohen, a biochemist who was awarded the National Medal of Science at the end of a career beset by sexist obstacles, died at 96 on this date in 2009. Cohen was a pioneer in the use of nuclear magnetic resonance for studying enzyme reactions, and revealed a great deal about adenosine triphosphate, a molecule […]

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August 26: Lina Stern, Outliving Stalin

Lina Stern, an outstanding medical biochemist who emigrated to the USSR for ideological reasons in 1925, served as a director of the Institute of Physiology of the USSR Academy of Sciences for nearly twenty years, and won the Stalin Prize in 1943, was born in today’s Latvia on this date in 1878. Stern did pioneering work […]

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May 14: Genetics in the Atomic Age

Charlotte “Lottie” Auerbach, a geneticist who fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and built a career in Edinburgh, where her work on mutations proved to be classified and could not be published until 1947, was born within a family of scientists in Krefeld, Germany on this date in 1899. Auerbach was a pioneering geneticist, an expert […]

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November 22: Evolutionary Cooperation

Lynn Margulis, a biologist who showed that interdependence and cooperation among organisms drives evolution as much as competition, died in Amherst, Massachusetts of a stroke at 73 on this date in 2011. Margulis went to the University of Chicago at age 14, married her fellow scientist Carl Sagan at 19, and published her thesis in […]

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November 17: Ruth Harriet Bleier and Gender Studies

Ruth Harriet Bleier, author of two essential books of women’s studies, Science and Gender: A Critique of Biology and Its Theories on Women (1984) and Feminist Approaches to Science (1986), was born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania on this date in 1923. Bleier was a physician in Maryland who publicly supported civil rights in the 1950s, […]

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June 22: The First Israeli Woman Nobelist

Ada E. Yonath, the first Israeli woman to win a Nobel Prize (in Chemistry, 2009, with Venki Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz), was born into hard poverty in Jerusalem on this date in 1939. Yonath pioneered the investigation of the ribosome, the molecular complex that synthesizes proteins within all living cells. In 1970, she established Israel’s […]

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March 7: Susan Greenfield and the Royal Institution

The Royal Institution of Great Britain was established in London on this date in 1799 with funding from the Society for Bettering the Conditions and Improving the Comforts of the Poor. Its purposes, said its charter, were “diffusing the knowledge, and facilitating the general introduction, of useful mechanical inventions and improvements; and . . . […]

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October 27: Lise Meitner

An Austrian physicist who helped discover uranium fission but refused to work on the atomic bomb, Lise Meitner died in Cambridge on this date in 1968. Meitner was the second woman to gain a doctoral degree in physics from the University of Vienna (1905). She then became an assistant to Max Planck (who had formerly […]

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