Tikvah Alper

Tikvah Alper, Discoverer of the Prion

By Jaime Seltzer Tikvah Alper was born to Russian immigrant Jewish parents in South Africa in 1909, the youngest daughter of four. She was incredibly precocious, graduating from Durban Girls High School when she was only fifteen; faculty said she was the most “intellectually distinguished” girl they had ever taught. Tikvah won a scholarship to […]

Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville – The Polymath

By Jaime Seltzer Mary Somerville was born in December of 1780. She was born to two uneducated parents in Scotland, in a time where it was thought – and I do not kid – that women were too weak-minded for strenuous intellectual activity, and that the pursuit of it would quite literally set them insane. […]

Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner: the woman nearly erased from history

By Jaime Seltzer Elise Meitner was born in Vienna, Austria in 1878, the third of eight children in a prosperous, middle-class family. She went to the Akademisches Gymnasium for her secondary education, and in 1905 earned her doctorate at the University of Vienna, only the second woman to earn a doctorate in physics there. Lise, […]

Chien Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu, the First Lady of Physics

By Jaime Seltzer “It is the courage to doubt what has long been established and the incessant search for its verification and proof that pushes the wheel of science forward.” Chien-Shiung Wu was born in 1912 in Liuhe, China. She was born at a felicitous time: the year before, the new Republic of China was […]

Irène Joliot-Curie: Daughter of Nuclear Science

By Jaime Seltzer Irène Joliot-Curie’s mother and father were Marie and Pierre Curie, a Polish and French husband and wife team already famous for their joint research on radioactivity. (I am sure that her parents and the world as a whole placed no pressure on her to be dazzlingly clever.) When Irène began showing signs […]

Katherine Johnson: The Human Computer

By Jaime Seltzer Katherine Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia to extraordinarily bright parents. Her mother, Joylette, had been a schoolteacher before marrying her father, Joshua, a man with a sixth-grade education who could nonetheless solve Katherine’s math word problems in an instant if she read them aloud, and calculate […]

Leona Woods: Bombs, Potatoes, and Secret Underground Labs

By Jaime Seltzer Leona Woods was an integral part of the Manhattan Project, otherwise known as the quest to build the bomb before the Nazis could, and later known as the thing that destroyed Hiroshima. Leona was a super-genius born in 1919 in La Grange, Illinois. By the time she was fourteen, she’d graduated high […]