Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) – English philosopher of science, author of Novum Organum; called “the high priest of modern science” for elucidating principles of the scientific method. Originator of the phrase “knowledge is power.” Was also a noted lawyer and a member of Parliament.


S. Josephine Baker (1873-1945) – Physician who organized the first child hygiene department under government control in New York City. Her tenure led to the lowest infant death rate in any American or European city during the 1910s. She was instrumental in identifying “Typhoid Mary.” Baker was a consultant to many child care organizations, and the president of several child health professional societies.


Neil Devine (1939-1994) – American Astrophysicist, major contributor to modern theory of star formation and prediction of meteoroid and space debris environments. During his 25 years at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Devine made many fundamental scientific contributions, including defining the radiation belts around Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus, and the dust environment around Halley and other cometary targets. During his tenure at JPL, he often served as a mentor and inspiration to many younger space physicists who benefited from both his scientific incisiveness and quick wit. 


Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) – Prussian naturalist, explorer of Central and South America, author of a 23-volume work on his travels, and of the seminal Cosmos, which laid the foundations for modern physical geography and meteorology. Humboldt was a leading European figure of his day, considered second only to Napoleon in influence. A major Pacific current, numerous cities, counties, and other landmarks bear his name.


Sonja Kovalevsky (1850-1891) – Russian mathematician, developed Kovalevsky’s theorem, editor of Acta Mathematica. Showing aptitude in mathematics at an early age, Kovalevsky is an example of a brilliant woman who encountered barriers solely because of her gender. Women were not allowed to study in Russian universities, and her father considered it improper for her to study abroad. Kovalevsky went to Germany to study with Karl Weierstrass. For her 1888 work “On the Problem of the Rotation of a Solid Body about a Fixed Point,” she was awarded the famous Prix Bordin of the French Academy of Sciences.


Louise Pearce (1885-1959) – Pathologist at the Rockefeller Institute who helped develop a treatment for African sleeping sickness. She, along with fellow pathologist Wade Hampton Brown, and two chemists, developed tryparsamide. The Rockefeller Institute sent Pearce to the Belgium Congo in 1920 “trusting her vigorous personality to carry out an assignment none too easy for a woman physician and not without its dangers.” For her service, Pearce received the order of the Crown of Belgium, and in 1953, the Royal Order of the Lion. Pearce also studied syphilis, for which tryparsamide was standard treatment until penicillin replaced it. With Brown, she discovered and developed the Brown-Pearce tumor, systematically studied syphilis in rabbits, explored how a virus might spread cancer, and researched immune reactions to rabbit pox.


Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) – Italian artist, scientist, and engineer, researcher of human anatomy, mathematics, and the potential for human flight He conceived of helicopters, tanks, machine guns, submarines, and solar power.


Clyde Wahrhaftig (1919-1994) – American Geologist and Environmentalist, author of Streetcar to Subduction (a geological tour of San Francisco via bus and streetcar), and recipient of the Geological Society of America’s Kirk Bryan Award for Geomorphology. Wahrhaftig was a versatile geologist who made notable contributions to understanding the coal deposits, geology and glaciers of Alaska and the landforms, surficial deposits and bedrock geology of the Sierra Nevada and the California Coast Ranges.


Reprinted courtesy of National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals Inc.

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