Each month or so, we will feature a new set of STEM Luminaries (one each from Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and a Conservation Leader from the Past and Present. There are many notable figures down through the ages that we’ve heard of-Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein, but what we plan to do here is to introduce you to names you may not have heard of, and that is where we begin. For each person, we will provide you with a couple of links, so you can learn more (with your parent’s permission.) If there is someone you think we should feature, let us know (Michael McDowell).
Science-Hakim Ibn Sina (Avicenna)
Haim Ibn Sina, or Avicenna as he is known to the West, was born c. 970 in the Persian Empire. Avicenna was a Muslim physician, philosopher, and poly-math, but why is Avicenna such an important figure? Many of us have heard of Aristotle, but were it not for Avicenna, we likely would not know as much of Aristotle’s works as we do. Avicenna compiled an encyclopedia of knowledge of logic, physics, mathematics, and meta-physics. Much of the foundations of this work flowed from Aristotle, but that original work was not accessible. He was able to synthesize this knowledge into a usable form. Avicenna was quite possibly among the first evidence-based physicians, treating disease systematically and using methods that were shown to work.
Clara Barton was working in the US Patent Office when the country burst into Civil War. Though she had no formal medical training, her work on the battlefields of the Civil War lead her to become known as the Angel of the Battlefield. She delivered aid to Union soldiers and served as head nurse for Benjamin Bulter’s Units in 1864. Following the Civil War, Clara Barton traveled to Europe where she was introduced to the Swiss Organization, the Red Cross whose mission was to protect the sick and wounded during wartime. In 1881, she founded the American Red Cross. She served as its President until 1904 when she resigned at the age of 83.
Engineering-Lillian Moller Gilbreth
Lillian Moller Gilbreth was a psychologist and industrial engineer. She innovated how work spaces are designed, so workers could be more efficient in performance of tasks. This included one the most heavily used spaces at home, the kitchen. She is credited with the introduction of shelves in refrigerators and the foot pedal on garbage cans. She was the first female member of the Society for Industrial Engineers. She was awarded the Hoover Medal for her public service. Interestingly, the original Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) movie was written by one of her children and is based on life in her home.
Mikolaj Kopernik, or Nicolaus Copernicus, was a Polish mathematician born in 1473 who proposed the Heliocentric model of our Solar System. Prior to his work the prevailing view of the Solar System is one developed by Ptolemy, where the earth was fixed in space and the cosmos orbited about us, or the Geocentric model. While there were counter arguments against the Geocentric model, it did hold sway in the 1400 and 1500’s. Early in the 1500’s, Copernicus published his manuscript On The Revolutions, which advocated for the Heliocentric model. It wasn’t until much later that his ideas gained broad acceptance, thought not without refinement.
Jane Goodall started her groundbreaking work on chimpanzees 60 years ago in Gombe, Tanzania. Her observations on chimpanzees upended many of the closely held beliefs about our closest genetic relatives. For instance, she observed tool use by chimpanzees, something not previously observed. Today, she travels the world advocating for the preservation of species under threat, from the chimpanzees of Africa to our own Grey Wolf. (Your author had the good fortune to attend a small group presentation by Dr. Goodall when he was in high school (in the 80’s). In that small group, we got to learn a great deal more about her observations and work.)
- Science-Irène Joliot-Curie (Irène Joliot-Curie (Nobel Prize) and Irène Joliot-Curie (RSC))
- Technology-Johannes Gutenberg (Johannes Gutenberg (Biography) and Johannes Gutenberg (Thought))
- Engineering-Nicolas Cugnot (Nicolas Cugnot (Britannica) and Nicolas Cugnot (Garage))
- Mathematics-Georg Reimann (Georg Reimann (Britannica) and Georg Reimann (Berkeley))
- Conservation-Anna Botsford Comstock (Anna Botsford Comstock (Britannica), Anna Botsford Comstock (Early Women in Science), and Anna Botsford Comstock (NYBG))
- Science-Susumu Tonegawa (Susumu Tonegawa (Britannica) and Susumu Tonegawa (Nobel Prize))
- Technology-Florence Nightingale (Florence Nightingale (Time) and Florence Nightingale (Biography))
- Engineering-Leonardo da Vinci (Leonardo da Vinci (Net) and Leonardo da Vinci (Museum of Science))
- Mathematics-Euclid (Euclid (Ancient.eu) and Euclid (Story of Mathematics))
- Conservation-Ansel Adams (Ansel Adams (Gallery), Ansel Adams (Biography), and Ansel Adams (Yosemite))
- Science-Marie Curie (Marie Curie (Nobel) and Marie Curie (Britannica))
- Technology-George Washington Carver (George W. Carver (Biography) and George W. Carver (History))
- Engineering-Emily Warren Roebling (Emily Roebling (ASCE) and Emily Roebling (A Mighty Girl))
- Mathematics-Grace Hopper (Grace Hopper (Women’s History) and Grace Hopper (Biography))
- Conservation-Wangari Maathai (Wangari Maathai (Nobel) and Wangari Maathai (Biography))
- Science-Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) (Alhazen (Famousscientists), Alhazen (UCSB) and Alhazen (Britannica)
- Technology-Hedy Lamarr (Hedy Lamarr (Women’s History) or Hedy Lamarr (Forbes)
- Engineering-Neil Armstrong (Neil Armstrong (NASA) or Neil Armstrong (Space.com)
- Mathematics-René Descartes (Rene Descartes (Britannica), Rene Descartes (Biography), or Rene Descartes (Stanford)
- Conservation-Aldo Leopold (The Leopold Foundation, The Wilderness Society, or Aldo Leopold (Iowa State University).
- Science-Roger Bacon (Roger Bacon (Stanford) or Roger Bacon (Britannica))
- Technology-Archimedes (Archimedes (Britannica) or Archimedes (Ancient.eu))
- Engineering-Imhotep (Imhotep (Ancient.eu) and Imhotep (arce.org))
- Mathematics-Brahmagupta ( Brahmagupta (St. Andrews.ac.uk) and Brahmagupta (Britannica))
- Conservation-Rachel Carson (Silent Spring , Rachelcarson.org, and Rachel Carson (fws.gov).