Groundbreaking scientific discoveries are made by people of all types and backgrounds. Northern Kentucky University celebrates diversity and the discoveries of these brave pioneers.



1920 - 1958
Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin always liked facts. She was logical and precise, and impatient with things that were otherwise. She decided to become a scientist when she was 15. She passed the examination for admission to Cambridge University in 1938, and it sparked a family crisis. Although her family was well-to-do and had a tradition of public service and philanthropy, her father disapproved of university education for women. He refused to pay. An aunt stepped in and said Franklin should go to school, and she would pay for it. Franklin's mother also took her side until her father finally gave in.

War broke out in Europe in 1939 and Franklin stayed at Cambridge. She graduated in 1941 and started work on her doctorate. Her work focused on a wartime problem: the nature of coal and charcoal and how to use them most efficiently. She published five papers on the subject before she was 26 years old. Her work is still quoted today, and helped launch the field of high-strength carbon fibers. At 26, Franklin had her PhD and the war was just over. She began working in x-ray diffraction -- using x-rays to create images of crystalized solids. She pioneered the use of this method in analyzing complex, unorganized matter such as large biological molecules, and not just single crystals.

She spent three years in France, enjoying the work atmosphere, the freedoms of peacetime, the French food and culture. But in 1950, she realized that if she wanted to make a scientific career in England, she had to go back. She was invited to King's College in London to join a team of scientists studying living cells. The leader of the team assigned her to work on DNA with a graduate student. Franklin's assumption was that it was her own project. The laboratory's second-in-command, Maurice Wilkins, was on vacation at the time, and when he returned, their relationship was muddled. He assumed she was to assist his work; she assumed she'd be the only one working on DNA. They had powerful personality differences as well: Franklin direct, quick, decisive, and Wilkins shy, speculative, and passive. This would play a role in the coming years as the race unfolded to find the structure of DNA.

Franklin made marked advances in x-ray diffraction techniques with DNA. She adjusted her equipment to produce an extremely fine beam of x-rays. She extracted finer DNA fibers than ever before and arranged them in parallel bundles. And she studied the fibers' reactions to humid conditions. All of these allowed her to discover crucial keys to DNA's structure. Wilkins shared her data, without her knowledge, with James Watson and Francis Crick, at Cambridge University, and they pulled ahead in the race, ultimately publishing the proposed structure of DNA in March, 1953.

The strained relationship with Wilkins and other aspects of King's College (the women scientists were not allowed to eat lunch in the common room where the men did, for example) led Franklin to seek another position. She headed her own research group at Birkbeck College in London. But the head of King's let her go on the condition she would not work on DNA. Franklin returned to her studies of coal and also wrapped up her DNA work. She turned her attention to viruses, publishing 17 papers in five years. Her group's findings laid the foundation for structural virology.

While on a professional visit to the United States, Franklin had episodes of pain that she soon learned were ovarian cancer. She continued working over the next two years, through three operations and experimental chemotherapy and a 10-month remission. She worked up until a few weeks before her death in 1958 at age 37.

Information taken from PBS A Science Odyssey – People and Discoveries:



Percy Julian

Just before the turn of the century, Percy Lavon Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a bright student, but at that time the city provided no public education for black students after eighth grade. He persisted, however, and entered DePauw University in Indiana as a "sub-freshman." He had to take several classes to get caught up on what his public education had not provided. Yet in 1920, he graduated first in his class with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

He became a chemistry instructor at Fisk University, but in 1923, received an Austin Fellowship in Chemistry and went to Harvard to complete his masters degree. Again he took university teaching positions for a few years before traveling to Austria to obtain his PhD in chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1931. He returned to DePauw to continue his research. His original interest was investigating plant products, especially traditional medicinal plants such as the African calabar bean. In 1935, with Josef Pikl, he first synthesized from this plant a chemical called physostigmine, or esserine, which could treat the sometimes blinding disease of glaucoma by reducing pressure inside the eyeball. This brought him international scientific acclaim, but no professorship.

He left academia to become lab director at Glidden Company. One day in 1939, a water leak in a tank of purified soybean oil created a strange byproduct and gave Julian a surprise insight: the soy sterol that had been created could be used to manufacture male and female hormones, progesterone and testosterone. Progesterone would prove useful in treating certain cancers and problem pregnancies. During World War II, Julian developed a foam from soy protein that could put out oil and gas fires; it was quickly adopted by the military.

In 1948, the Mayo Clinic announced the discovery of a compound that relieved rheumatoid arthritis. It was cortisone, very difficult to come by. Julian got right to work, and by October 1949, his team had created a synthetic cortisone substitute, radically less expensive but just as effective. Natural cortisone had to be extracted from the adrenal glands of oxen and cost hundreds of dollars per drop; Julian's synthetic cortisone was only pennies per ounce.

By making important medical products plentiful and less expensive, Julian accelerated the research and growth of knowledge about them. His techniques and products led directly to the development of chemical birth control and medicines to suppress the immune system, crucial in performing organ transplants.

Julian held more than 100 chemical patents, wrote scores of papers on his work, and received dozens of awards and honorary degrees. He founded The Julian Laboratories, Inc., with labs in the U.S. and Mexico (both purchased by Smith Kline French in 1961) and another chemical plant in Guatemala (owned by Upjohn Company since 1961). In 1951, Julian and his family moved to Oak Park, Illinois, becoming the first black family to live there. His house was firebombed twice, but the community largely backed him and today celebrates his birthday as a holiday.

Information taken from PBS A Science Odyssey–People and Discoveries :



1878 – 1968
meitner poster

Lise Meitner was born on November 7, 1878, in Vienna, Austria. The third of eight children of a Jewish family, she entered the University of Vienna in 1901, studying physics under Ludwig Boltzmann. After she obtained her doctorate degree in 1906 (second awarded to a woman at this university), she went to Berlin in 1907 to study with Max Planck and the chemist Otto Hahn. She worked together with Hahn for 30 years, each of them leading a section in Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. Hahn and Meitner collaborated closely, studying radioactivity, with her knowledge of physics and his knowledge of chemistry. In 1918, they discovered the element protactinium.

In 1923, Meitner discovered the radiationless transition known as the Auger effect, which is named for Pierre Victor Auger, a French scientist who discovered the effect two years later.

After Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, Meitner was forced to flee Germany for Sweden. She continued her work at Manne Siegbahn's institute in Stockholm, but with little support, partially due to Siegbahn's prejudice against women in science. Hahn and Meitner met clandestinely in Copenhagen in November to plan a new round of experiments. The experiments that provided the evidence for nuclear fission were done at Hahn's laboratory in Berlin and published in January 1939. In February 1939, Meitner published the physical explanation for the observations and, with her nephew, physicist Otto Frisch, named the process nuclear fission. The discovery led other scientists to prompt Albert Einstein to write President Franklin D. Roosevelt a warning letter, which led to the Manhattan Project.

In 1944, Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his research into fission, but Meitner was ignored, partly because Hahn downplayed her role ever since she left Germany. The Nobel mistake, never acknowledged, was partly rectified in 1966, when Hahn, Meitner, and Strassman were awarded the Enrico Fermi Award. On a visit to the U.S. in 1946, she was given total American press celebrity treatment, as someone who had "left Germany with the bomb in my purse."

Meitner retired to Cambridge, England, in 1960, where she died October 27. In 1992, element 109, the heaviest known element in the universe, was named Meitnerium (Mt) in her honor. Many consider Lise Meitner the "most significant woman scientist of the 20th Century."


Information taken from Atomic,



1930 - Present
Akira Suzuki

Awarded Nobel Prize in 2012 for "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis"

“I was born on September 12, 1930, in Mukawa – a small town in Hokkaido, Japan. I attended primary school there and entered a secondary school in Tomakomai, which is home to one of the biggest paper companies in Japan. At high school, I was interested in mathematics. Consequently, when I entered Hokkaido University in Sapporo, I wanted to learn more about the subject. In my freshman year, I became interested in organic chemistry after reading Textbook of Organic Chemistry by L. F. Fieser and M. Fieser. Finally, I decided to major in organic chemistry.

“The title of my doctoral thesis was Synthesis of the Model Compounds of Diterpene Alkaloids. In the study, I used organometallic compounds, Grignard reagents and organozinc compounds as synthetic intermediates and realized that organometallic compounds are interesting and versatile intermediates for organic synthesis. After completing the PhD program at Hokkaido University’s Graduate School of Science in 1959, I was employed as a research assistant in the Chemistry Department. Two years and six months later in October 1961, I was invited to become an assistant professor of the Synthetic Organic Chemistry Laboratory at the newly founded Synthetic Chemical Engineering Department in the Faculty of Engineering. In April 1973, I succeeded Professor H. Otsuka of the Third Laboratory in the Applied Chemistry Department. In total, I have spent 35 years at Hokkaido University as a staff member – 2 and a half in the Faculty of Science, and the other 32 and a half in the Faculty of Engineering. Other than about two years of study in America and a few months in other places overseas, most of my life has been spent at the Faculty of Engineering. Including my nine years as a student, the majority of my life has been at Hokkaido University. After my retirement from the university in 1994, I served at two private universities in Okayama Prefecture – Okayama University of Science and Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts – before retiring from university work in 2002.”

-          Akira Suzuki

Information taken from,



Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born at Tiruchirappalli in Southern India on November 7th, 1888. His father was a lecturer in mathematics and physics so that from the first he was immersed in an academic atmosphere. He entered Presidency College, Madras, in 1902, and in 1904 passed his B.A. examination, winning the first place and the gold medal in physics; in 1907 he gained his M.A. degree, obtaining the highest distinctions.

His earliest researches in optics and acoustics - the two fields of investigation to which he has dedicated his entire career - were carried out while he was a student.

Since at that time a scientific career did not appear to present the best possibilities, Raman joined the Indian Finance Department in 1907; though the duties of his office took most of his time, Raman found opportunities for carrying on experimental research in the laboratory of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science at Calcutta (of which he became Honorary Secretary in 1919).

In 1917 he was offered the newly endowed Palit Chair of Physics at Calcutta University, and decided to accept it. After 15 years at Calcutta he became Professor at the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore (1933-1948), and since 1948 he is Director of the Raman Institute of Research at Bangalore, established and endowed by himself. He also founded the Indian Journal of Physics in 1926, of which he is the Editor. Raman sponsored the establishment of the Indian Academy of Sciences and has served as President since its inception. He also initiated the Proceedings of that academy, in which much of his work has been published, and is President of the Current Science Association, Bangalore, which publishes Current Science (India).

Some of Raman's early memoirs appeared as Bulletins of the Indian Associationfor the Cultivation of Science (Bull. 6 and 11, dealing with the "Maintenance of Vibrations"; Bull. 15, 1918, dealing with the theory of the musical instruments of the violin family). He contributed an article on the theory of musical instruments to the 8th Volume of the Handbuch der Physik, 1928. In 1922 he published his work on the "Molecular Diffraction of Light", the first of a series of investigations with his collaborators which ultimately led to his discovery, on the 28th of February, 1928, of the radiation effect which bears his name ("A new radiation", Indian J. Phys., 2 (1928) 387), and which gained him the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Other investigations carried out by Raman were: his experimental and theoretical studies on the diffraction of light by acoustic waves of ultrasonic and hypersonic frequencies (published 1934-1942), and those on the effects produced by X-rays on infrared vibrations in crystals exposed to ordinary light. In 1948 Raman, through studying the spectroscopic behaviour of crystals, approached in a new manner fundamental problems of crystal dynamics. His laboratory has been dealing with the structure and properties of diamond, the structure and optical behaviour of numerous iridescent substances (labradorite, pearly felspar, agate, opal, and pearls).

Among his other interests have been the optics of colloids, electrical and magnetic anisotropy, and the physiology of human vision.

Raman has been honoured with a large number of honorary doctorates and memberships of scientific societies. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society early in his career (1924), and was knighted in 1929.

From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1922-1941, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1965


Groundbreaking scientific discoveries are made by people of all origins and/or walks of life. The world is better for these advancements so NKU celebrates diversity and the discoveries of these brave pioneers.

Artwork completed by Zachary Evans



Jabir Ibn Hayyan

Jabir (known as Geber in western history) is mostly known for his contributions to chemistry. He emphasised systematic experimentation, and did much to free alchemy from superstition and turn it into a science. He is credited with the invention of many types of now-basic chemical laboratory equipment, and with the discovery and description of many now-commonplace chemical substances and processes – such as the hydrochloric and nitric acids, distillation, and crystallisation – that have become the foundation of today's chemistry and chemical engineering.

In spite of his leanings toward mysticism (he was considered a Sufi) and superstition, he more clearly recognized and proclaimed the importance of experimentation. "The first essential in chemistry", he declared, "is that you should perform practical work and conduct experiments, for he who performs not practical work nor makes experiments will never attain the least degree of mastery."

Jabir is also credited with the invention and development of several chemical instruments that are still used today, such as the alembic, which made distillation easy, safe, and efficient. By distilling various salts together with sulfuric acid, Jabir discovered hydrochloric acid (from salt) and nitric acid (from saltpeter). By combining the two, he invented aqua regia, one of the few substances that can dissolve gold. Besides its obvious applications to gold extraction and purification, this discovery would fuel the dreams and despair of alchemists for the next thousand years. He is also credited with the discovery of citric acid (the sour component of lemons and other unripe fruits), acetic acid (from vinegar), and tartaric acid (from wine-making residues).

Jabir applied his chemical knowledge to the improvement of many manufacturing processes, such as making steel and other metals, preventing rust, engraving gold, dyeing and waterproofing cloth, tanning leather, and the chemical analysis of pigments and other substances. He developed the use of manganese dioxide in glassmaking, to counteract the green tinge produced by iron — a process that is still used today. He noted that boiling wine released a flammable vapor, thus paving the way to Al-Razi's discovery of ethanol.

The seeds of the modern classification of elements into metals and non-metals could be seen in his chemical nomenclature. He proposed three categories: "spirits" which vaporise on heating, like camphor, arsenic, and ammonium chloride; "metals", like gold, silver, lead, copper, and iron; and "stones" that can be converted into powders. In the Middle Ages, Jabir's treatises on alchemy were translated into Latin and became standard texts for European alchemists. Several technical terms introduced by Jabir, such as alkali, have found their way into various European languages and have become part of scientific vocabulary.

Information taken from among others



1952 - Present
Roger Y. Sien

Roger Y. Tsien has said that he is "doomed by heredity to do this kind of work", which says a lot for a man who is very distantly descended from King Qian Liu (Tsien Liu) of Wuyue in China. Tsien’s modest claim, however, refers to the extraordinary number of respected engineers, from chemists to rocket scientists, in his extended family. Indeed, he often refers to his own work as ‘molecular engineering’.

He was born on February 1, 1952 in New York City and grew up in Livingston, New Jersey, where he attended the local high school. His first early success was at the age of 16, when he won the national Westinghouse Talent Search with a project analysing how metals bind to thiocyanate. He gained a National Merit Scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honours in chemistry and physics in 1972. He then moved to Churchill College in Cambridge, England on a Marshall Scholarship to study physiology, receiving his Ph.D. in 1977 and staying on as a research fellow at Gonville and Caius College until 1981.

Returning to the US, Tsien joined the faculty at the University of California in Berkeley but in 1989 switched to the University of California, San Diego as Professor of Pharmacology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. At Cambridge and Berkeley, Tsien developed molecules to track and control the levels of calcium inside cells, regulating nerve impulses, muscle contraction and fertilisation. But the move to UCSD made it possible to explore signals transmitted through more complex biochemical, such as cAMP (cyclic 3',5-adenosine monophosphate) and the wider range of macromolecular interactions, and realized that genetically encoded fluorescent molecules like Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) could be the key.

Like Martin Chalfie, he acknowledges the generosity of Douglas Prasher: “I called him up, and to my amazement he was willing to give out the gene", Tsien says. Armed with the gene that created GFP in the Aequorea victoria jellyfish, Tsien’s team found ways to adapt the protein and red relatives from corals to improve their practical use by scientists. Introducing several variants of the protein made it possible to track and monitor a range of molecular processes simultaneously, in all sizes and types of cells, without disrupting cell function.

He was a co-founder of Aurora Biosciences Corporation, which used GFP for high-throughput drug screening and of Senomyx, a company using such screening technology to discover flavour modifiers.

Tsien has received numerous awards for his work and is a member of the Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, US National Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society. Together with O. Shimomura and M. Chalfie he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2008 "for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP"

Information taken from The Lindau Mediatheque :



1930 - Present
Mildred S. Dresselhaus

National Medal of Science recipient in 1990 "for her studies of the electronic properties of metals and semi-metals, and for her service to the nation in establishing a prominent place for women in physics and engineering."

Mildred S. Dresselhaus, born Mildred Spiewak, grew up attending the tough public schools in a poor section of the Bronx, New York City. Though she originally planned on becoming an elementary-school teacher, her encounter with physicist Rosalyn Yalow while an undergraduate at Hunter College inspired Dresselhaus to pursue science.

After earning her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1958, Dresselhaus received an NSF-sponsored postdoctoral fellowship to study superconductivity at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.. She then moved to Boston, Mass., so that she and her husband, physicist Gene Dresselhaus, could accept positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. While raising four young children, Mildred Dresselhaus became a full professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at MIT; at the time, women made up only 4 percent of the student population.

"I like to be challenged. I welcome the hard questions and having to come up with good explanations on the spot. That's an experience I really enjoy."

--Mildred S. Dresselhaus

Her research has been instrumental in the development of the nanotechnology field, and her work has earned her the nickname "Queen of Carbon."

Dresselhaus credits Rosalyn Yalow and another great physicist, Enrico Fermi, for taking interest in her when she was a student and encouraging her to pursue challenging research goals. Dresselhaus herself has spent much of her career promoting the participation of women in science, and received the 2010 American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. Outside of the laboratory, Dresselhaus enjoys playing violin and viola in chamber groups.

Taken from



1860 - 1943
George Washington Carver

Carver was born in 1860 in Diamond Grove, Missouri. His parents were slaves, and so was he. Prone to sickness, he was a frail child for most of his growing-up years. Because of this, he was not suited to heavy-duty work in the fields of his master's farm. Rather, George was sent to another town in Missouri, Neosho, to get an education. He proved so successful a student that he attended and then graduated from high school, in Kansas. He applied and was accepted to Highland University, even getting a scholarship for his good grades, but was rejected when the president of the university discovered that Carver was African-American.

He was hungry for knowledge, and so Carver applied to and was accepted at Simpson College, in Indianola, Iowa. He later transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University), where he made such an impression on his instructors that they offered a position right after he graduated. He was the first African-American on the faculty. He had from an early age been interested in plants, and he continued this study at the university greenhouse. He continued to study earning his master's in agriculture in 1896. His greenhouse work included searching for cures for fungus diseases.

The following year, opportunity knocked again, as Booker T. Washington, the famed African-American educator, invited Carver to come teach at the famed Tuskegee Institute, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Carver accepted and became director of agriculture.

Peanuts, however, grew very quickly. Soon, the peanut crop threatened to overwhelm the farmers at Tuskegee. Carver came to the rescue by finding uses for the peanut. He ultimately invented more than 300 products that used the peanut in development, including cheese, milk, facial cream, ink, shampoo, and soap.

Not stopping there, Carver moved on to the sweet potato and pecans, which also grew in abundance. More than 115 sweet potato products later, Carver was famous again. Many of his ideas were used by the U.S. Military during World War I. And his seemingly ceaseless imagination for using foods to make non-food items made his name a household word. He was invited to speak before Congress. Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford invited Carver to his Dearborn, Mich., plant to discuss how to use goldenrod to make artificial rubber. Even the great Thomas Edison was impressed with Carver, inviting him to work at his Edison Laboratories for $100,000 a year. Carver refused, wanting to stay at Tuskegee.

He continued to work there until his death, on January 5, 1943. By that time, he had received numerous high-profile medals and awards and served on many boards and committees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A few months after Carver died, his birthplace became a national monument, the first dedicated to an African-American.

From Social Studies for Kids website (



1906 - 1987
luis Leloir

Luis Federico Leloir was born on September 6, 1906, at 81 Avenue Victor Hugo in Paris, France, a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe monument. At the age of 2, he joined his extended family in Buenos Aires, Argentina, setting up the circumstances for him to pursue his scientific career.

In his autobiographical article, "Far Away and Long Ago," Leloir noted, "My great-grandparents came to Argentina, some from France, others from Spain, and bought land when it was cheap but still unsafe from the incursions of the Indians. Later these lands produced the cereal and grains and the cattle that brought riches to the country and to the pioneers who worked on them. These circumstances allowed me to devote myself to research when it was very difficult or impossible to find a full-time position for research."

After serving as an assistant at the Institute of Physiology, University of Buenos Aires, from 1934 to 1935, Leloir worked a year at the biochemical laboratory at the University of Cambridge and in 1937 returned to the Institute of Physiology, where he undertook investigations of the oxidation of fatty acids. In 1947 he obtained financial support to set up the Institute for Biochemical Research, Buenos Aires, where he began research on the formation and breakdown of lactose, or milk sugar, in the body. That work ultimately led to his discovery of sugar nucleotides, which are key elements in the processes by which sugars stored in the body are converted into energy. He also investigated the formation and utilization of glycogen and discovered certain liver enzymes that are involved in its synthesis from glucose.

Leloir married Amelia Zuberbuhler in 1943 and together they had a daughter named Amelia. Despite his success in his field, he was self-deprecating about his shortcomings in other areas: "Among the negative abilities I might mention that my musical ear was very poor so that I could not become a composer or a musician," he wrote in "Far Away and Long Ago." "In most sports I was mediocre so that was another activity that did not attract me too much. My lack of oratorical ability closed the door to politics and law. I was a bad practicing physician because I was never sure of the diagnosis or of the treatment."

Leloir's work was influential in the world of science in the 20th century. He continued his research until his death on December 2, 1987, in Buenos Aires.

Information taken from and Encyclopedia Britannica entries

Groundbreaking scientific discoveries are made by people of all origins and/or walks of life. The world is better for these advancements so NKU celebrates diversity and the discoveries of these brave pioneers.                                                 

Artwork completed by Zachary Evans



1952 - Present
Jacqueline Barton

Jacqueline K. Barton probes DNA by shooting electrons through it. Using custom-built molecules to direct these electrical currents, she can locate genes, see how they are arranged, and scan them for damage. Her techniques may lead to new ways to diagnose diseases and treat them through DNA repair. To further this end, she cofounded GeneOhm Sciences in 2001, which became part of Becton, Dickinson and Company in 2006.

Barton was born and raised in New York City. Her father was a state supreme court justice; her mother, a Belgian Jew who escaped to England ahead of Hitler’s invading army and then immigrated to the United States. Barton did not study chemistry in high school, since it was not offered at her girls’ preparatory school. Not until she entered Barnard College of Columbia University did she take her first chemistry class and lab. She loved the subject and decided to make it her career. She stayed at Columbia for her Ph.D., then worked at Bell Labs and taught at Hunter College, City University of New York, before returning to Columbia as a professor. Later she took a position at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, where she married Peter Dervan, also an accomplished chemistry professor, with whom she has one daughter.

    Barton first became interested in DNA during graduate school. She has since spent her career studying the electrical conductivity of DNA. She was among the first to demonstrate this strange property, and no one knows if it helps DNA carry out its job of carrying genetic information. Barton is hoping to find answers to this question.

Barton has also shown that certain damaged DNA molecules do not conduct electricity. Since damaged DNA can cause many kinds of cancer, she hopes that her discovery will eventually help doctors detect damaged DNA before cancer results. In addition Barton has investigated how some metal compounds (called “complexes”) interact with DNA molecules. Evidence suggests that metal complexes can be used to repair damaged DNA.

Among her many honors, Barton was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2002.

Information taken from

Groundbreaking scientific discoveries are made by people of all origins and/or walks of life. The world is better for these advancements so NKU celebrates diversity and the discoveries of these brave pioneers.

Artwork completed by Zachary Evans



1867 - 1934
Marie Curie

Maria Sklodowska, better known as Marie Curie, was born in Warsaw in modern-day Poland on November 7, 1867. Her parents were both teachers, and she was the youngest of five children. As a child Curie took after her father, Ladislas, a math and physics instructor. She had a bright and curious mind and excelled at school. A top student in her secondary school, Curie could not attend the men-only University of Warsaw. She instead continued her education in Warsaw's "floating university," a set of underground, informal classes held in secret. Both Curie and her sister Bronya dreamed of going abroad to earn an official degree, but they lacked the financial resources to pay for more schooling. Undeterred, Curie worked out a deal with her sister. She would work to support Bronya while she was in school and Bronya would return the favor after she completed her studies.Curie completed her master's degree in physics in 1893 and earned another degree in mathematics the following year. Around this time, she received a commission to do a study on different types of steel and their magnetic properties. Curie needed a lab to work in, and a colleague introduced her to French physicist Pierre Curie. A romance developed between the brilliant pair, and they became a scientific dynamic duo.

Marie and Pierre Curie were dedicated scientists and completely devoted to one another. At first, they worked on separate projects. She was fascinated with the work of Henri Becquerel, a French physicist who discovered that uranium casts off rays, weaker rays than the X-rays found by Wilhelm Roentgen. Curie took Becquerel's work a few steps further, conducting her own experiments on uranium rays. She discovered that the rays remained constant, no matter the condition or form of the uranium. The rays, she theorized, came from the element's atomic structure. This revolutionary idea created the field of atomic physics and Curie herself coined the word radioactivity to describe the phenomena. Marie and Pierre had a daughter, Irene, in 1897, but their work didn't slow down. Working with the mineral pitchblende, the pair discovered a new radioactive element in 1898. They named the element polonium, after Marie's native country of Poland. They also detected the presence of another radioactive material in the pitchblende, and called that radium. In 1902, the Curies announced that they had produced a decigram of pure radium, demonstrating its existence as a unique chemical element.

Marie Curie made history in 1903 when she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. She won the prestigious honor along with her husband and Henri Becquerel, for their work on radioactivity. With their Nobel Prize win, the Curies developed an international reputation for their scientific efforts, and they used their prize money to continue their research. They welcomed a second child, daughter Eve, the following year. In 1906, Marie suffered a tremendous loss. Her husband Pierre was killed in Paris after he accidentally stepped in front of a horse-drawn wagon. Despite her tremendous grief, she took over his teaching post at the Sorbonne, becoming the institution's first female professor. Curie received another great honor in 1911, winning her second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry. She was selected for her discovery of radium and polonium, and became the first scientist to win two Nobel Prizes. While she received the prize alone, she shared the honor jointly with her late husband in her acceptance lecture.

   Around this time, Curie joined with other famous scientists, including Albert Einstein and Max Planck, to attend the first Solvay Congress in Physics. They gathered to discuss the many groundbreaking discoveries in their field. Curie experienced the downside of fame in 1911, when her relationship with her husband's former student, Paul Langevin, became public. Curie was derided in the press for breaking up Langevin's marriage. The press' negativity towards Curie stemmed at least in part from rising xenophobia in France. When World War I broke out in 1914, Curie devoted her time and resources to helping the cause. She championed the use of portable X-ray machines in the field, and these medical vehicles earned the nickname "Little Curies." After the war, Curie used her celebrity to advance her research. She traveled to the United States twice— in 1921 and in 1929— to raise funds to buy radium and to establish a radium research institute in Warsaw.

   Marie Curie made many breakthroughs in her lifetime. She is the most famous female scientist of all time, and has received numerous posthumous honors. In 1995, her and her husband's remains were interred in the Panthéon in Paris, the final resting place of France's greatest minds. Curie became the first and only woman to be laid to rest there.Curie also passed down her love of science to the next generation. Her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie followed in her mother's footsteps, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. Joliot-Curie shared the honor with her husband Frédéric Joliot for their work on their synthesis of new radioactive elements.Today several educational and research institutions and medical centers bear the Curie name, including the Institute Curie and the Pierre and Marie Curie University, both in Paris.  – Information taken from

Groundbreaking scientific discoveries are made by people of all origins and/or walks of life. The world is better for these advancements so NKU celebrates diversity and the discoveries of these brave pioneers.

Artwork completed by Zachary Evans