Gone in 2013: A Tribute to 10 Remarkable Women in Science
By Maia Weinstock
The following is a selection of 10 notable women in science who left us in 2013 who have contributed greatly to their field. This, of course, is not a comprehensive list.
1. Brigitte Askonas, April 1, 1923 - Jan 9, 2013 (aged 89).
The Grand Dame of Immunology. This Austrian-born British immunologist contributed many influential works on the nature of the human immune system. She is best known for her groundbreaking studies elucidating the behavior of antibody-producing B cells and determining the role of T lymphocytes in viral infections. Askonas served for 12 years as head of the Division of Immunology at the National Institute for Medical Research in London and was both a fellow of the UK’s Royal Society and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
2. Candace Pert, June 26, 1946 – Sept 12, 2013 (aged 67)
Dedicated to bridging the gap between science and spirituality.The American neuroscientist, pharmacologist, and mind-body researcher identified the first opiate receptor in the brain. Her discovery laid the groundwork for future research in brain biochemistry and helped her graduate advisor earn the prestigious Lasker Award (aka, the American Nobel). She also discovered the receptors for Valium and PCP but eventually shifted her career to focus on the application of scientific standards to questions of whether and how the brain may play a role in disease.
3. Eleanor Adair, Nov 28, 1926 – Apr 20, 2013 (aged 86)
Microwave proponent. A dual expert in physics and psychology, she was a trailblazing American researcher in the field of microwave radiation safety. She carried out numerous controlled studies in which she exposed monkeys and human volunteers—including herself—with microwave radiation. Her conclusions were always the same: environmental microwaves such as those emitted by cell phones, microwave ovens, and power lines have no adverse effects on health. Adair’s work ultimately helped set international standards for microwave exposure.
4. Janet Rowley, Apr 5, 1925 – Dec 17, 2013 (aged 88)
Discovered cancer can be genetic. The fact that cancer can have a genetic basis has only been known for ~40 years, discovered by this American physician and geneticist. While working with leukemia, ahe found that chromosomal slip-ups (aka translocations) can lead to the development of cancerous cells. Her research laid the groundwork for a number of therapies. She was awarded the National Medal of Science, the Lasker Award and the National Medal of Freedom.
5. Margherita Hack, June 12, 1922 – June 29, 2013 (aged 91)
Lady of the stars. The beloved Italian astrophysicist, science writer, and public commentator wasthe first woman to lead an astronomical observatory in Italy and taught astronomy at the University of Trieste. Some considered her an Italian Carl Sagan because of her enormous influence as a writer, teacher and public figure.
6. Yvonne Brill, Dec 30, 1924 - Mar 27, 2013 (aged 88)
Pioneering rocket scientist. The career of this Canadian-born American aerospace engineer focused on developments in rocket propulsion. Her most important contribution was the invention of a thrust mechanism that is now routinely used to help keep satellites in their proper orbits. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010 and awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011.
7. Ruth Benerito, Jan 12, 1916 – Oct 5, 2013 (aged 97)
Wrinkle resistant cotton inventor. Holder of 55 patents and a 2008 inductee to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, she was an American (native Louisianian) chemist known for her invention of “easy-care” permanent press cotton, a staple of modern fabrics, by chemically bonding cotton fibers in a way that would prevent wrinkling, thereby saving the cotton industry by allowing it to compete with synthetic fibers.
8. Virginia Johnson, Feb 11, 1925 - July 24, 2013 (aged 88).
Sex Researcher. The American sexologist was one of the first researchers to systematically investigate human sexuality, observing ~700 volunteers to chronicle the physiology and psychology of human sexual behavior. This work led to the identification of the human sexual response cycle. She co-authored numerous papers/ books and became a sought-after sex therapist as part of the Masters and Johnson Institute.
9. Katharine Giles, Mar 22, 1978 - Apr 8, 2013 (aged 35)
Climate change scientist. This British climate scientist studied the effects of global warming on sea ice. Her most recent research focused on using radar data to monitor sea ice thickness in the Arctic and Antarctic to illustrate how winds affect the Arctic Ocean in the wake of sea ice melting.
10. Ruth Patrick, Nov 26, 1907 - Sept 23. 2013 (aged 105)
Pioneer in limnology and ecology. The field of limnology, or freshwater ecology, owes a great debt to this American environmental scientist, a pioneer in the study of water pollution. Her work on single-celled algae (diatoms) led to a new understanding of the types of environmental stresses that can affect freshwater systems. A longtime environmental activist, she authored > 200 research articles and was honored with the National Medal of Science.