To mark the end of LGBTQ+ History month, the Science and Technology Section presents a personal selection of outstanding contemporary and historic scientists across subjects and the rainbow. This article is dedicated to Prof David Smith’s husband, Sam Smith, who sadly passed away during the writing of this article at the age of 39.
Dr. Alan L Hart
Dr. Hart was an American physician in the early 20th Century who earned his medical degree in 1917 from the University of Oregon. Alan made significant progress combating the public health crisis of the time, tuberculosis. Through his expertise in x-ray radiography, Alan improved the only method of early pneumonia diagnosis. This contributed to a dramatic cut in the number of deaths from tuberculosis before the dawn of antibiotics. He also prioritized educating the wider public and wrote popular science books such as These Mysterious Rays: A Nontechnical Discussion of the Uses of X-Rays and Radium, Chiefly in Medicine’. Alan’s success was achieved despite the abhorrent view of his contemporaries towards people who were transgender. Alan pursued undergoing the first gender reassignment surgery in America by approaching the psychoanalyst Dr. Allen Gilbert. Despite ultimately consulting Alan’s transition, Dr. Gilbert himself struggled to accept Alan’s identity as a transgender man choosing to define him as a homosexual woman with his notes on Alan published as ‘Homosexuality and its Treatment in the Journal of Mental and Nervous Diseases’. A succinct overview of Alan’s life can be found in Doctor Alan Hart: X-ray vision in the Archive by Emile Devereaux.
Professor David K. Smith
David K. Smith is an English professor of chemistry at the University of York. His research group specialises in the development of nanomaterials, specifically smart gels, and nanomedicines. Inspired by the numerous medications that his partner, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, was prescribed, David hopes to redefine drug delivery systems from the nanometer up. His research has culminated in receiving the Corday Morgan Award in 2012 by the Royal Society of Chemistry for significant contributions to supramolecular and nanoscale chemistry. In addition to cutting edge research, David is a strong proponent of science education and has so far contributed an article in Nature Chemistry, a YouTube channel and he has even been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education award for Most Innovative Teacher 2012. Proudly gay, David takes an active role in encouraging diversity and LGBTQ+ representation in STEM and prioritises making York’s chemistry department an inclusive and safe space for all of its staff and students.
Dr. Jessica Ware
Dr. Ware is an African-American assistant professor of evolutionary biology and entomology at Rutgers University, New Jersey. Receiving a prestigious US National Science Foundation early career award after completing her Ph.D., Jessica delved straight into conducting her own groundbreaking research. Her high career trajectory has only continued; gaining tenure in 2010, becoming an editor for numerous academic journals and leading a diverse research group of award-winning scientists. Jessica is an X-files fan, inspired particularly by Dr. Dana Scully, proud mum and trailblazing African American curator at internationally renowned museums such as the Smithsonian Institution. She defines herself as bisexual and continues to encourage people from minority groups to become scientists, being one of twenty academics interviewed for the book Memoirs of Black Entomologists.
Sophie Wilson is a British computer scientist and designer of the Arm microprocessor instruction set, which runs 95 per cent of modern mobile phones. Working for Arm’s precursor immediately after graduating from Cambridge University in the late 70s, she was the primary developer of the BBC BASIC, the programming language behind the 80s computing phenomenon, the BBC Micro. At its height, the BBC Micro could be found in 80 per cent of British schools and is regularly referred to as the inspiration behind countless British leaders in the modern computing industry. Currently, she is a Senior Technical Director at Broadcom and continues to develop processor architecture. Sophie is transgender, and she is listed as one of the 15 most important women in technology and Fellow of the Women’s Engineering Society.
Dr JJ Eldridge
Dr. Eldridge is a senior lecturer of astrophysics, specialising in stellar evolution, at the University of Auckland. They graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2005 after completing their Bachelor’s, Masters and Ph.D. Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and of the Astronomical Society of Australia as well as recipient of numerous teaching excellence awards, they are a highly regarded theoretical astrophysicist. Defining themselves as non-binary, they consciously sacrifice research time to progress equality and inclusivity across academia both locally, through the University’s LGBTI network, Rainbow Science and Trans On Campus groups, and internationally, via the Australian Society of Astronomy’s Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable Astronomy (IDEA) group.
Image credit: Anthony William Oliver via Wikicommons