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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

Woman of the Week – Jane Cooke Wright

Posted April 24, 2017 4:40 PM by lmno24

Jane Cooke Wright (also known as "Jane Jones”) was a pioneering cancer researcher and surgeon. She is most known for her contributions to chemotherapy, specifically with developing the technique of using human tissue culture rather than laboratory mice to test the effects of potential drugs on cancer cells. She also pioneered the use of the drug methotrexate to treat breast and skin cancers.

She was born in New York City. Her mother was a public school teacher while her father, Louis T. Wright, was a graduate of Meharry Medical College and one of the first African American graduates from Harvard Medical School. Her extended family also had many members in the medical field . Wright's uncle, Harold Dadford West, was a physician, ultimately president of Meharry Medical College. In becoming physicians, Jane and her sister Barbara Wright Pierce both followed in their father's and grandfathers' footsteps, overcoming gender and racial bias succeeded in a largely white male profession.

Credit: Smith College

As a child, Wright attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx. She graduated with an art degree from Smith College in 1942 and then earned a medical degree, graduating with honors in 1945 from the New York Medical College.

After medical school, she completed residencies at Bellevue Hospital (1945–46) and Harlem Hospital (1947–48). She completed her tenure at Harlem Hospital as chief resident, a high ranking position.

Then, in 1949, she joined her father in research at the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Center. Her father was the founder and director of the center ; when he died in 1952, she took over as leader.

In 1955, Wright began her work at the New York University Medical Center as the director of cancer chemotherapy research. She was also an instructor of research surgery in the Medical Center's Department of Surgery. In July 1967, Dr. Wright became a professor of surgery at New York Medical College, where at the time she was the highest ranking African American woman in an American medical institution.

Outside of her many roles, she conducted significant research. Wright's research work involved studying the effects of various drugs on tumors ; she was the first to identify methotrexate, one of the foundational chemotherapy drugs, as an effective tool against cancerous tumors.

Her early work took chemotherapy from an untested and experimental procedure and turned it into a reputable and proven-to-be-effective cancer treatment.

Wright later pioneered combinatorial work in chemotherapeutics, focusing not simply on administering multiple drugs, but sequential and dosage variations to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and minimize side effects. She was successful in identifying treatments for both breast and skin cancer, developing chemotherapy protocol that increased skin cancer patient lifespans up to ten years.


By little surprise, she has received numerous citations and awards. Honors include the Merit Award from Mademoiselle Magazine in 1952, the Spirit of Achievement Award of the Women’s Division of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1961, and the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award in 1967. The following year her alma mater, Smith College, presented her with the Smith Medal, its most notable award. In 1971, Dr. Wright became the first woman to serve as president of the New York Cancer Society.

In addition to her research and practice, she also served on numerous boards and frequently volunteered in the community Dr. Wright worked in Ghana in 1957 and in Kenya in 1961, helping to treat cancer patients.

In 1987, after a forty-four year career, Dr. Jane Cooke Wright retired as an emerita professor at New York Medical College. Her work has helped change the lives of millions and has left a significant impact on the medical field.


2 comments; last comment on 04/25/2017
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Woman of the Week – Nancy Roman

Posted April 17, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Nancy Grace Roman is an American astronomer who was one of the first female executives at NASA and also played a crucial role in the planning of the Hubble Space Telescope. She is also known as a remarkable public speaker, educator, and advocate for women in science.

She was born in Nashville, Tenn., but lived in a number of places. In 1937, she moved to Baltimore, Md., for junior high and high school. Roman attended Swarthmore College in 1946 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy. While she studied there, she worked at the Sproul Observatory. After this, she went on to receive her Ph.D. in the same field at the University of Chicago in 1949. She stayed at the university for six more years working at the Yerkes Observatory, sometimes traveling to the McDonald Observatory in Texas to work as a research associate with W.W. Morgan. The research position was not permanent, so she became an instructor and later an assistant professor.

Roman eventually left her job at the university because of the difficulty for a woman at the time to receive tenure for a research position, but she remained involved at the school.

She’s lived in Washington D.C. for most of her adult life.

When Roman was eleven years old, she showed her early interest in astronomy by forming an astronomy club at school. She and her classmates got together weekly and learned about constellations from books. Although discouraged by those around her, Roman knew by the time she was in high school that she wanted to pursue her passion for astronomy. She attended Western High School in Baltimore where she participated in an accelerated program and graduated in three years.

She joined NASA in 1959, a few months after its formation, to set up a program of astronomy from space. Roman was the first Chief of Astronomy in NASA's Office of Space Science, setting up the initial program; she was the first woman to hold an executive position at the space agency.

As part of her job, she traveled around the country trying to learn what astronomers wanted from NASA. She knew they wanted space observations from above the atmosphere because “Looking through the atmosphere is somewhat like looking through a piece of old, stained glass,” she said.

She set up a committee of astronomers, plus NASA engineers, to decide how to get those observations. The Hubble Telescope was a result. It was carried into orbit by a space shuttle in 1990 and remains in service to this day. Roman was very involved with the early planning and specifically the setting up of the program's structure. Because of her contribution, she is often called the “Mother of Hubble."

During her time at NASA, Roman developed and budgeted various programs, and organized their scientific participation. She was involved in launching three Orbiting Solar Observatories and three Small Astronomical Satellites. These satellites used ultraviolet and x-ray technology for observing the sun, space, and sky. She also oversaw the launches of other Orbiting Astronomical Observatories that used optical and ultraviolet measurements, working with Dixon Ashworth. She planned for other smaller programs such as the Astronomy Rocket Program, High Energy Astronomy Observatories, the Scout Probe to measure the relativistic gravity redshift and other experiments on Spacelab, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab.

After working for NASA for twenty-one years, she continued, until 1997, her work for contractors who supported the Goddard Space Flight Center. Roman was also a consultant for ORI, Inc. from 1980 to 1988. She still lives in Washington D.C. and turns 92 in May.


4 comments; last comment on 04/18/2017
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Woman of the Week - Sophia Jex-Blake

Posted April 10, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24
Pathfinder Tags: Woman of the week wow

Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake was an English physician, teacher, and feminist. She led the campaign to secure women access to a university education when she and six other women – known as a group as the Edinburgh Seven – began studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1869. She was the first practicing female doctor in Scotland and one of the first in the wider United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. She was also a leading campaigner for medical education for women and was involved in founding two medical schools for women in London. She did this at a time when no other medical schools were training women.

As a girl, she attended various private schools in southern England and in 1858 enrolled at Queen's College, London, despite her parents' objections. In 1859, she was offered a post as a mathematics tutor at the college, while she was still a student.

Her parents believed it was wrong for middle-class women to work and only gave their approval to tutor after she agreed not to accept a salary. This is one example of her strong will and lifetime desire to defy her parent’s wishes. She was energetic and audacious and often clashed with her parents conservative views. She had a thirst for knowledge, and because of that, was not satisfied by the schools meant to mold Victorian girls into homemakers and mothers. Jex-Blake was shuffled from school to school because her teachers and her ailing mother found it difficult to handle her excitable behavior. Jex-Blake showed little interest in marriage and instead craved learning and physical activity, like horseback riding, which she was denied.

While in London, Jex-Blake became friends with a group of feminists that included Barbara Bodichon, Emily Davies, Elizabeth Garrett, Adelaide Anne Procter, and Emily Faithfull. According to Louisa Garrett Anderson, "They were comrades and worked for a great end." Louisa Garrett Anderson is the daughter of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Jex-Blake’s friend and colleague, who we wrote about a few months ago on this blog.

Eventually, many of these women became involved in the struggle for women's suffrage.

In 1865, Jex-Blake convinced her parents to allow her to travel to the United States to study the education system. In Boston, she met Dr. Lucy Sewall, a 28-year-old physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. Through their friendship, Jex-Blake was introduced to the field of medicine and the idea of feminism and women’s rights.

She worked in American hospitals and practiced as a pharmacist and the hospital’s bookkeeper. She grew to love the medical field and hoped to study medicine in the U.S. However, she was denied access to learn at Harvard. She was admitted to a medical college for women in New York, but decided to move back home after her father passed.

A few years after returning home, she pursued her medical education. In 1869, she was admitted to Edinburgh University's medical school, but the school later overturned the decision. This sparked what would become a long road to admittance, one that attracted attention all over the world.

Jex-Blake and four other women were admitted to the school, but there was a catch. They had to attend separate classes for women and pay higher tuition than men. Eventually, the university discontinued the separate classes and advised the women to seek training at a local teaching hospital, the Royal Infirmary. The hospital refused to comply. The women were harassed by opponents, although there were sympathizers among the faculty, students, and in the community.

The peak conflict was known as the Riot at Surgeons’ Hall, when protestors blocked the women from entering their classroom when they arrived for school that day. The incident earned publicity worldwide and the women gained sympathy and support.

Jex-Blake led the students to file a lawsuit against the university for blocking their education. They won the suit, but lost an appeal. The women finally took their fight to Parliament where, after a difficult battle, they succeeded in getting supporters to pass a bill that allowed all medical schools in Great Britain to admit women. But, many institutions still denied women, despite this. The group of women learned from some faculty members who were sympathetic to the cause, and still provided them time to learn.

Jex-Blake finally completed her medical education in Switzerland, and, in 1877, Jex-Blake and four other women passed their medical exams at the College of Physicians in Dublin, Ireland. At the age of 37, Jex-Blake was licensed to practice medicine.

She returned to Edinburgh and opened her own practice, which was very successful. Following her mother’s death, she opened the Edinburgh School for Women of Medicine. She went on to practice medicine for several years and conduct courses at the school.


1 comments; last comment on 04/12/2017
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Woman of the Week – Patricia Bath

Posted April 03, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24
Pathfinder Tags: Woman of the week wow

Patricia Era Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor, and academic. She has made strides for both women and African Americans in numerous areas.

She’s been the first to do a lot of things, and the list is quite impressive. Previously, no woman had served on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, headed a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology, or been elected to the honorary staff of the UCLA Medical Center, before her. Before Bath, no black person had served as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University and no black woman had ever served on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. Bath is the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose.

She was born November 4, 1942 in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. Her father, an immigrant from Trinidad, was a newspaper columnist, a merchant seaman, and the first black man to work for the New York City Subway as a motorman. Her father inspired her love for culture and encouraged her to explore different cultures. Her mother, a descendant from African slaves, decided to be a homemaker while her children were young, then later became a housekeeper to help fund for her children's educations.

The family lived in Harlem during Bath’s childhood, and despite struggles with poverty, racism, and sexism, her parents always encouraged her to explore her strengths in school. They quickly noticed she was gifted in science and math, as well as other subjects. One of her favorite gifts she was given as a microscope, as it helped her explore her interests further. Bath attended Charles Evans Hughes High School where she excelled at such a rapid pace causing her to get a diploma in just two and a half years. The school is in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, one of her only choices for schooling as there were no high schools in Harlem at the time.

Her family did not have the money to send her to medical school, but she knew she wanted to continue her education, so she applied for a National Science Foundation Scholarship while attending high school. She earned the scholarship and this led her to a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center on connection between cancer, nutrition, and stress which helped her interest in science shift to medicine – which was pivotal in her career.

Bath received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Hunter College in 1964. She moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University College of Medicine, from which she received her doctoral degree in 1968. During her time there, she was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.

She interned at Harlem Hospital Center, and then served as a fellow at Columbia University. Bath traveled to Yugoslavia in 1967 to study children's health which caused her to become aware that the practice of eye care was uneven among racial minorities and poor populations, with much higher incidence of blindness among her black and poor patients. She determined that, as a physician, she would help address this issue. She persuaded her professors from Columbia to operate on blind patients at Harlem Hospital Center, which had not previously offered eye surgery, at no cost. Bath pioneered the worldwide discipline of "community ophthalmology,” a volunteer-based outreach to bring necessary eye care to underserved populations. She saw the need for his service in these communities, and made it her mission to make this possible.


She served her residency in ophthalmology at New York University from 1970 to 1973, the first African American to do so in this field.

After her schooling, Bath served briefly as an assistant professor at Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science before becoming the first woman on faculty at the Eye Institute. In 1978, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, where she served as president. In 1983, she became the head of a residency in her field at Charles R. Drew, the first woman ever to head such a department. In 1993, she retired from UCLA, which subsequently elected her the first woman on its honorary staff.

She served as a professor of Ophthalmology at Howard University's School of Medicine and as a professor of Telemedicine and Ophthalmology at St. Georges University. She was among the co-founders of the King-Drew Medical Center ophthalmology training program as well.

Bath has lectured internationally and authored over 100 papers; she also holds four medical patents in the United States.

In 1981, she conceived the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves on the use of lasers to remove cataracts. The device was completed in 1986 after Bath conducted research on lasers in Berlin and patented in 1988, making her the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. The device is used internationally to treat the disease, and it’s often what she is most known for. She was able to use the device to restore sight to many.

Today, she is 74 years old and is retired from her work. However, remains a strong advocate for the medical world, women’s rights, and African American rights.


1 comments; last comment on 04/04/2017
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Woman of the Week – Florence Bascom

Posted March 27, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Apart from being one of the first females to master in Geology, Florence Bascom was known for her innovative findings in the field. She led a generation of notable female geologists and was the first woman hired by the United States Geological Survey.

She was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1862. Her father, John Bascom, was a professor at Williams College, and later President of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her mother, Emma Curtiss Bascom, was a women's rights activist involved in the suffrage movement. Her parents were strong supporters of women's rights and encouraged women to obtain a college education.

During the time of her undergraduate studies, women had limited access to educational resources like the library and gymnasium, and also limited access to classrooms if men were already studying in them. While studying at Johns Hopkins, she was forced to sit behind a screen so the men “wouldn’t be disturbed.”

Although she was the second woman to obtain a Ph.D. in Geology, she was the first female geologist to present a paper before the Geological Survey of Washington, in 1901.

She started her college teaching career in 1884 at the Hampton School of Negroes and American Indians (now Hampton University). She worked there for a year before going back for her Master's degree. She taught mathematics and science at Rockford College from 1887 to 1889, and later at Ohio State University from 1893 to 1895. She left Ohio State University to work at Bryn Mawr College where she could conduct original research and teach higher level geology courses. While there, she founded the Department of Geology, and started a graduate program that trained many of the first women geologists of the 20th century.

Her students described her as incisive, rigorous and consistent.

Bascom retired from teaching in 1928 but continued to work at the U.S. Geological Survey until 1936.

Aside from teaching, she did extensive geological research and work. Bascom received the position of assistant geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 1896, and was the first woman to be appointed. From 1896 to 1908, she was an associate editor of the magazine American Geologist.

Bascom was promoted to geologist in 1909 by the USGS and assigned the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont region where much of her work involved the crystalline rocks and geomorphology of this region. A lot of this research is still referenced and used to this day.

She was also given four stars in the first edition of American Men and Women of Science (called American Men of Science at the time), a very high honor for a scientist of any gender.

Additionally, she is credited with contributing greatly to the understanding of how the Appalachian mountain range had been formed through her studies with the research process of petrology.

Florence Bascom died of a stroke on June 18, 1945. She is buried in a Williams College cemetery in Williamstown, alongside family members.


1 comments; last comment on 03/28/2017
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