The Pediatric Cardiology of Helen Taussig (1898-1986)

June 21, 2017 by

It's sometime in the 1930s, and you're walking into a ward full of crouching children with blue-tinted lips. Something is wrong with their hearts, something that is preventing their blood from getting enough oxygen, turning the red fluid a deep, thick black. At the slightest exertion, the children can pass out and even die, their starved tissues and thickening heart unable to cope with ... [Read More]

She Writes Shells, and Tragedies: The Marine Biology and Ecology of Helen Scales

June 14, 2017 by

What could possibly be better than a shell? There is beauty enough there to stir the poet, and structure enough to stimulate the mathematician, a vanished life history for the biologist, and a riddle in time for the archaeologist. From how they are made to the curious existence of what ... [Read More]

The Complicated Legacy Of Famed Anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

June 7, 2017 by

There is hardly a name in science more encrusted with bad faith generalizations and well-meaning but ahistorical hagiography than that of anthropologist Margaret Mead. In her time, she was to anthropology what Carl Sagan was to astronomy – a brilliant and irreverent popularizer who inspired a new generation of scientists even as she ... [Read More]

Scheduling for Success, Preparing for Disaster: NASA Flight Controller Marianne Dyson

May 31, 2017 by

In between landing on the moon in July of 1969 and launching the first space shuttle into orbit in April of 1981, NASA learned a few things about contingency planning. Margaret Hamilton's software had saved Apollo 11's moon landing by crafting specialized bits of code to compensate ... [Read More]

The Queen of Wind-Blown Sediments: Kelly Deuerling’s Aeolian Geochemistry

May 24, 2017 by

Life is an ion-hungry enterprise. Sure, carbs, proteins, and fatty acids get most of the press, but without a steady stream of calcium to help regulate signal transduction in cells, zinc to promote proper growth, iron for oxygen transport, and a host of other minerals besides, things start going very wrong for living systems. We need minerals, ... [Read More]

Agnes Mary Clerke (1842-1907) At The Nerve Center Of 19th Century Astrophysics

May 17, 2017 by

For a solid century and a half, from Mary Somerville's The Mechanism of the Heavens of 1830 to Helen Sawyer Hogg's final With the Stars column in 1981, it was largely from women that the English speaking world learned its love of the night sky and its inhabitants. Somerville (1780-1872) had brought continental mathematics and celestial ... [Read More]

Icie Macy Hoobler (1892-1984) And The Science of Infant-Mother Nutrition

May 10, 2017 by

A young mother of the early twentieth century who couldn't or didn't want to breastfeed was a creature entirely at the hands of bumbling chance. Doctors of the era prescribed individually concocted replacement formula recipes based on a mixture of patchwork research, folk wisdom, and personal idiosyncracy. ... [Read More]

Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) And The Battle For Medical Women

May 3, 2017 by

There are cases where the towering homogeneity of Victorian culture is exaggerated. The era of Prince Albert and Lord Palmerston was, after all, also the age of George Eliot, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx. Beneath the deceptive appearance of total societal conformity ... [Read More]