Welcome to the Missing Scientists’ Faces Blog!

 

If you want to see pictures of notable scientists you’ve never seen before, you’re in the right place! The goal here is to put faces to names you may know, but most often won’t.

Groups that are under-represented in science fields end up even more under-represented in our image of the professions. That’s why “Missing Scientists’ Faces” leans heavily in the opposite direction. And it’s centered around Wikipedia, making it globally accessible, and a great way to crowdsource science’s historic record. You can catch up on the backstory here.

This first big post covers the first few weeks of March. Expect to see a post about once a week, even if it’s a short one. You can keep up with how this project develops, with just one email a week. In this first post, you can check out:

New images

The first batch of new recent images comes from a mix of crowdsourcing, targeted searching, and serendipity. The people were born between 1856 and 1963:

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  • Evelyn Boyd Granville (b 1924) – the second African-American woman to get a PhD in mathematics (1949), moving into computer programming with IBM in the 1950s, then to NASA in the 1960s to work on Apollo missions, then to being Professor of Mathematics at California State University.
  • Lydia Villa-Komaroff (b 1947) – a molecular and cellular biologist, who is the third Mexican-American woman to receive a PhD in this field (1975). She is known for co-discovering how bacterial cells can generate insulin, and is a co-founding member of The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
    • Mónica Feliú-Mójer shared a link to videos of Villa-Komaroff talking about why she became a scientist, why people should study science and more – the link is  now on Villa-Komaroff’s Wikipedia page, too.
  • Nathan Francis Mossell (1856-1946) was the first African-American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, studied in London as well, and helped found, then lead, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School in Philadelphia. This adds an image when he was older to his Wikipedia page.
  • Aprille Ericsson (1963-) – aerospace engineer at NASA. First woman to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering at Howard University, first African-American woman to earn a PhD in engineering at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She has been working on the Mars mission. Sourced by: Nature, in its story about MissingSciFaces.

This second batch are all MacArthur Fellows – scientists awarded “the genius grant”. Jennifer Richeson was the one I was looking for: she pointed me to her MacArthur program portraits. All those photos are in the public domain – but not in Wikipedia. Here is a small subset:

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  • Jennifer Richeson (1972-) – social psychologist and Professor at Northwestern University, MacArthur Fellowship (the genius grant). She researches interracial relations, including using brain imaging studies. Sourced by: Jennifer Richeson responded to a direct request on Twitter.
  • Lisa Cooper (b 1963) – a public health physician and epidemiologist born in Liberia, who is a Professor at Johns Hopkins University. She is known for her research on the impact of race, ethnicity, and gender on the doctor-patient relationship and health disparities.
  • Mercedes Doretti (b 1959) – an Argentinian forensic anthropologist who founded the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, working on finding evidence of crimes against humanity.
  • Wafaa  El-Sadr (b 1950) – an infectious disease and public health physician, who studies HIV and tuberculosis and is a global activist. She is a Professor at Columbia University, and Egyptian-American.
  • Yoky Matsuoka (b 1972) – now at Apple, her research combined neuroscience and robotics to design prosthetics. She is Japanese-American.
  • Olufunmilayo Olopade (b 1957) – a hematology oncologist, she studied breast cancer genes in women of African heritage. She is Nigerian-American, and a Professor at the University of Chicago.
  • Nergis Mavalvala (b 1968) – a Pakistani-American astrophysicist, who participated in the first observation of gravitational waves and more. She is a Professor at MIT.
  • Ana Maria Rey (b 1976 or 1977) – a theoretical physicist known for her work on ultra-cold atoms. Born in Colombia, she is a Professor at the University of Colorado.

Featured scientists needing images

Tweeted out two amazing women scientists this week, including tweeting at the institutions they are associated with. Any takers for more direct contact? The copyright status of these wonderful photos is not clear, so we don’t know if they are in the public domain and can be used on Wikipedia. Zelma Maine-Jackson and Gloria Chisum are both important and inspiring scientists who need a lot more visibility:

 

Sophie Lutterlough (1910-2009)entomologist

Wikipedia bio page – this picture uploaded by the Smithsonian Institution to Wikimedia Commons needed to have a story shared:

Photo of Sophie Lutterlough
Sophie Lutterlough, entomologist

 

The photo is of Sophie Lutterlough, showing her with the microscope, tweezers, and chemicals she spent countless hours poring over as she restored, identified, and classified insects at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). The NMNH reports that she restored hundreds of thousands of insects over the years, and co-identified 40 type specimens – that’s an insect that stands as the representative of its species. In 1979, a large mite was named in her honor: pygemephorus lutterloughae.

Lutterlough liked biology, and became fascinated by the NMNH and the work that went on inside. But when she applied to work there in 1943, racial barriers meant a job on the curation and science side was impossible. Lutterlough got a job as the first woman elevator operator, studying the exhibits in her lunch hours and becoming a font of expertise for visitors. After 12 years of that, she asked an insect curator if there could be a place for her in his department – and she was on her way to becoming an entomologist.

It wasn’t unusual at the Museum for people without zoological qualifications to become scientists by training and experience there. It might be unique for an African-American of her generation, though. For years at least, she was the only African-American employed full-time on the Museum’s science side. I hope to find out from the NMNH if she was the first. Margaret Collins, a zoology Professor at Howard University, was a research associate at NMNH, apparently from the late 1970s.

With big thanks to the social media and entomology teams at the NMNH who tracked down the article in a paywalled zoological article describing the mite named after Luttlerlough – and to NMNH for blogging about Lutterlough and releasing the photo in Wikimedia Commons that introduced me to Lutterlough.

 

Hilda Bastian