Featured Innovators in the Hall of Science
George Washington Carver
While a professor at Tuskegee Institute, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, as a source of their own food and to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. Although he spent years developing and promoting numerous products made from peanuts, none became commercially successful.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, in Physics, and with her later win, in Chemistry, she became the first person to claim Nobel honors twice. Born Maria Sklodowska on November 7, 1867, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person—man or woman—to win the award twice. Curie's efforts, with her husband Pierre Curie, led to the discovery of polonium and radium and, after Pierre's death, the further development of X-rays. The famed scientist died on July 4, 1934.
Marie Maynard Daly
(April 16, 1921 – October 28, 2003) was an American biochemist. She was the first Black American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry (awarded by Columbia University in 1947). Daly attended Hunter College High School, a laboratory high school for girls run by Hunter College faculty, where she was also encouraged to pursue chemistry. She then enrolled in Queens College, a small, fairly new school in Flushing, New York. She lived at home to save money and graduated from Queens College with her bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1942.Daly completed a thesis entitled A Study of the Products Formed By the Action of Pancreatic Amylase on Corn Starch to earn her Ph.D. in chemistry in 1947.
Sylvia Alice Earle (born August 30, 1935) is an American marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer. She has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence since 1998. Earle was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and was named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998. She is also part of the group Ocean Elders, which is dedicated to protecting the ocean and its wildlife. Earle was born in 1935 in the Gibbstown section of Greenwich Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey, to Lewis Reade and Alice Freas (Richie) Earle. Both of Earle's parents were enthusiastic about the outdoors and supportive of their daughter's early interests in the natural world. The family moved to the western coast of Florida in Earle's childhood. Earle received an associate degree from St. Petersburg Jr. College (1952), a bachelor of science degree from Florida State University (1955), and a master of science (1956) and doctorate of phycology (1966) from Duke University. In 2009, Earle won a TED Prize. With TED's support, she launched Mission Blue, which aims to establish marine protected areas (dubbed "Hope Spots") around the globe. With Mission Blue and its partners, Earle leads expeditions to Hope Spots around the globe. Past expeditions include Cuba in 2009, Belize in January 2010, the Galápagos Islands in April 2010, Costa Rica and the Central American Dome in early 2014 and the South African Coast in late 2014.
Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). He is best known by the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 (which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation"). He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the evolution of quantum theory. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the large-scale structure of the universe.
Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite. Although her works on coal and viruses were appreciated in her lifetime, her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely recognized posthumously.
Earning a research fellowship, she joined the University of Cambridge physical chemistry laboratory under Ronald George Wreyford Norrish. The British Coal Utilisation Research Association (BCURA) offered her a research position in 1942, and started her work on coals. This helped her earn a Ph.D. in 1945. She became a research associate at King's College London in 1951 and worked on X-ray diffraction studies, which would eventually facilitate the double helix theory of the DNA. Back at Birkbeck, John Desmond Bernal, chair of the physics department, offered her a separate research team. She died in 1958 at the age of 37 of ovarian cancer.
Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, she was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first compiler related tools. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today. In 1949, Hopper became an employee of the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior mathematician and joined the team developing the UNIVAC I. Hopper also served as UNIVAC director of Automatic Programming Development for Remington Rand. The UNIVAC was the first known large-scale electronic computer to be on the market in 1950, and was more competitive at processing information than the Mark I.
Mae C. Jemison is the first African-American female astronaut. In 1992, she flew into space aboard the Endeavour, becoming the first African-American woman in space. Mae C. Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American astronaut and physician who, on June 4, 1987, became the first African-American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates.
Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson (born August 26, 1918) is an African-American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights. During her 35-year career at NASA and its predecessor, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped the space agency pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. Her work included calculating trajectories, launch windows and emergency return paths for Project Mercury spaceflights, including those of astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American in orbit, and rendezvous paths for the Apollo lunar lander and command module on flights to the Moon. Her calculations were also essential to the beginning of the Space Shuttle program, and she worked on plans for a mission to Mars. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognize that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is sometimes regarded as the first to recognize the full potential of a "computing machine" and the first computer programmer.
Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, astronomer, theologian, author and physicist (described in his own day as a "natural philosopher") who is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"), first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made pathbreaking contributions to optics, and he shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus. Newton's Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that dominated scientists' view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. By deriving Kepler's laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, and using the same principles to account for the trajectories of comets, the tides, the precession of the equinoxes, and other phenomena, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the Solar System and demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies could be accounted for by the same principles.
(May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut. Born in Los Angeles, she joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983. Ride was the third woman in space overall, after USSR cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982). Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32. After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She worked for two years at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control, then at the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics, primarily researching nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate in both. Ride died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012.
Vera Florence Cooper Rubin (July 23, 1928 – December 25, 2016) was an American astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates. She uncovered the discrepancy between the predicted angular motion of galaxies and the observed motion, by studying galactic rotation curves. This phenomenon became known as the galaxy rotation problem, and was evidence of the existence of dark matter. Although initially met with skepticism, Rubin's results were confirmed over subsequent decades. Her legacy was described by The New York Times as "ushering in a Copernican-scale change" in cosmological theory.
Beginning her academic career as the sole undergraduate in astronomy at Vassar College, Rubin went on to graduate studies at Cornell University and Georgetown University, where she observed deviations from Hubble flow in galaxies and provided evidence for the existence of galactic superclusters.
Valerie L. Thomas (born February 1943) is an African-American scientist and inventor. She invented the Illusion Transmitter, for which she received a patent in 1980. Valerie Thomas was interested in science as a child, after observing her father tinkering with the television and seeing the mechanical parts inside the TV. At the age of eight, she read The Boys First Book on Electronics, which sparked her interest in a career in science. Her father would not help her with the projects in the book, despite his own interest in electronics. At the all-girls school she attended, she was not encouraged to pursue science and math courses, though she did manage to take a physics course. Thomas would go on to attend Morgan State University, where she was one of two women majoring in physics. Thomas excelled in her math and science courses at Morgan State University and went on to work for NASA after graduation.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. Born and raised in the Austrian Empire, Tesla received an advanced education in engineering and physics in the 1870s and gained practical experience in the early 1880s working in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, where he would become a naturalized citizen. He worked for a short time at the Edison Machine Works in New York City before he struck out on his own. With the help of partners to finance and market his ideas, Tesla set up laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices. His alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase AC patents, licensed by Westinghouse Electrician 1888, earned him a considerable amount of money and became the cornerstone of the polyphase system which that company would eventually market.
Neil deGrasse Tyson (born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. The center is part of the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson founded the Department of Astrophysics in 1997 and has been a research associate in the department since 2003.
Tyson studied at Harvard University, the University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University. From 1991 to 1994 he was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University. In 1994, he joined the Hayden Planetarium as a staff scientist and the Princeton faculty as a visiting research scientist and lecturer. In 1996, he became director of the planetarium and oversaw its $210-million reconstruction project, which was completed in 2000.
Chien-Shiung Wu (May 31, 1912 – February 16, 1997) was a Chinese-American experimental physicist who made significant contributions in the field of nuclear physics. Wu worked on the Manhattan Project, where she helped develop the process for separating uranium metal into uranium-235 and uranium-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion. She is best known for conducting the Wu experiment, which contradicted the hypothetical law of conservation of parity. This discovery resulted in her colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang winning the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics, and also earned Wu the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978. Her expertise in experimental physics evoked comparisons to Marie Curie. Her nicknames include "the First Lady of Physics", "the Chinese Madame Curie", and the "Queen of Nuclear Research".