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Rosalind Elsie Franklin: March 21

Rosalind Elsie Franklin: March 21

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of molecular structures. Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA which led to the discovery of the double helix. Her data, according to Francis Crick, were the data we used to formulate Crick and Watson’s 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. Franklin was never nominated for a Nobel Prize. The rules forbid posthumous nominations and because she had died in 1958, she was not eligible for nomination to the Nobel Prize subsequently awarded to Crick, Watson, and Wilkins in 1962.

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Gertrude Elion: March 20

Gertrude Elion: March 20

Gertrude Elion was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Unable to obtain a graduate research position, she worked as a lab assistant and a high school teacher. Later, she worked as an assistant to George H. Hitchings at the Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical company (now GlaxoSmithKline). She never obtained a formal Ph.D., but was later awarded an honorary Ph.D from Polytechnic University of New York where she attended but did not graduate. Elion and Hitchings used the differences in biochemistry between normal human cells and pathogens to design drugs that could kill or inhibit the reproduction of particular pathogens without harming the host cells.

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Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: March 19

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: March 19

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin discovered that hydrogen and helium were the overwhelming constituent of the stars. When her dissertation was reviewed, astronomer Henry Norris Russell dissuaded her from concluding that the composition of the Sun is different from that of the Earth, contradicting the accepted wisdom at the time. However, he changed his mind four years later after deriving the same result by different means. After Payne was proven correct, Russell was often given the credit, although he himself acknowledged her work in his paper.

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Barbara McClintock: March 17

Barbara McClintock: March 17

Barbara_McClintock was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of genetic transposition. She is the only woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that category. She developed theories to explain the suppression and expression of genetic information from one generation of maize plants to the next. Due to skepticism of her research and its implications, she stopped publishing her data in 1953. McClintock’s research became well understood in the 1960s and 1970s, as other scientists confirmed the mechanisms of genetic change and genetic regulation that she had demonstrated in her maize research in the 1940s and 1950s.

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Rosalyn Sussman Yalow: March 15

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow: March 15

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow was a medical physicist who was awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her role in development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA). RIA is a radioisotope tracing technique that allows the measurement of tiny quantities of various biological substances in human blood as well as a multitude of other aqueous fluids.

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Ada Lovelace: March 14 (pi day)

Ada Lovelace: March 14 (pi day)

3/14 (Pi Day): Mathematician chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. Because of this, she is often considered the world’s first computer programmer. She also developed a vision on the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities.

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Henrietta Swan Leavitt: March 13

Henrietta Swan Leavitt: March 13

Henrietta Swan Leavitt discovered the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars. The period-luminosity relationship for Cepheids made them the first “standard candle” in astronomy, allowing scientists such as Edwin Hubble to compute the distances to galaxies . This method was used by Hubble to discover that the Universe is expanding.