We may not always think about it, but scientific contributions have changed our lives. From new medicines to new technologies, science continues to shape our world. What we take for granted may once have been the life’s work of a scientist facing adversity because of his gender or race. However, they persisted and contributed their ideas to the world. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are five Hispanic scientists who have made amazing contributions to science.
1. Cesar Milstein
César Milstein was born in Argentina in 1927 and his parents encouraged him and his brothers to make education a priority. After graduating from the University of Buenos Aires with a Ph.D., Milstein accepted a position at the National Institute of Microbiology in Buenos Aires in 1957. from Cambridge University in 1960 and became a member of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.
Milstein’s primary area of study was with antibody, and in 1984, along with Georges Köhler and Niels K. Jerne, he received the Nobel Prize for his help in the development of monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies can help clone and produce an almost unlimited amount of desired antibodies. she are often used in Pregnancy tests, blood cell typing and detection of viral and bacterial diseases.
2. Ynes Mexía
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Ynés Enriqueta Julietta Mexía was a Mexican-American botanist born in 1870. Although she was 55 when she began her career as a botanist, her contributions to botany are immeasurable. Mexía grew up in Washington, DC before moving to Mexico to run her late father’s ranch. Her first husband died shortly after their marriage, and she filed for divorce from her second husband after he leveled the ranch. Due to her mental illness, Mexía moved to San Francisco for treatment. She worked there as a social worker before joining the environmental movement.
She joined the Sierra Club and the Save the Redwoods League and traveled throughout California. Her work with these organizations inspired her to pursue botany, and in 1921, at age 51, she enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1925 she embarked on her first plant collecting trip to Mexico, where she collected over 1500 plant species. As the first Mexican-American botanist, Mexía traveled everywhere north and South America Collecting samples throughout her 13-year career. She was even the first botanist to collect specimens in Denali National Park.
Throughout her travels, she advocated for Aboriginal and women’s rights, and shattered gender norms by traveling alone and sleeping outside—something women didn’t do much in this era. By the end of her career, Mexía had almost collected 150,000 copieshad named a new genus after her, which included 50 species and helped to discover and categorize over 500 plants.
3. Helen Rodríguez Triassic
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Born in 1929 to immigrant parents, Trías faced adversity from an early age. Despite her knowledge of English and good grades, she was not allowed to enter the more advanced classes of the school in New York. Eventually, one of her teachers noticed her academic achievements and promoted her to the advanced courses. This helped put Trías on the path to medicine. She studied medicine in San Juan and after completing her residency (at the University Hospital of San Juan) began teaching at the medical school. While in San Juan, she opened the first infant hospital in Puerto Rico and after three years infant mortality was falling 50 percent.
In 1970, Trías returned to New York as chief of the pediatric department at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. There she was confronted with other problems. The hospital saw mostly black and Hispanic patients. It was also in dire need of refurbishment. Because of this, activist groups like the Young Lords occupied hospitals and demanded better facilities and treatment for their people. Trías saw how poverty and inequality led to poor health. This experience brought her to the women’s health movement of the 1970s.
While white women have had to fight for access to safe abortion and birth control, women of color have sometimes been subdued sterilization practices. she founded the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse and the Committee on Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse. she found helped the Women’s Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus of the American Public Health Association (APHA). In the 1980s she worked at the AIDS Institute in New York and was involved with women and children living with HIV. And in 1993, she became the first Latina ever elected President the American Public Health Association.
She was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001 for her contributions to medicine and human well-being.
4. Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski
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Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski is a Cuban-American scientist who was born in 1993. Not even 30 years old, she has achieved numerous scientific achievements, including being the youngest person in the world to build and fly her own airplane. In 2006, at the age of 12, Pasterski began building the kit planes, N5886Qand in 2009, at the age of 16, she made her maiden voyage in the boat.
While studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pasterski was part of the Compact muon solenoid (CMS) experiment. The experiment aimed to use particle physics detectors to look for things like the Higgs bosonDark matter particles and extra dimensions.
She wrote a thesis on electromagnetic memory in 2015 while working towards a degree from Harvard – which was then cited in a 2016 Stephen Hawking Paper.
Pasterski is currently earning her postdoctoral degree at Princeton.
5. Carlos Juan Finlay
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Carlos Juan Finlay, born 1833, was a Cuban epidemiologist who studied yellow fever. A graduate of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Finlay was hired by the Cuban government to work with the North American Commission to investigate the cause of yellow fever. Later he was the Cuban delegate to the International Sanitary Conference in Washington, DC
At the conference, he presented his hypothesis that mosquitoes transmit yellow fever from infected people to healthy people. However, he was largely ignored and even ridiculed by the medical community for almost 20 years. However, that didn’t stop him from trying prove his hypothesis.
in 1900, Walter Scheid from the US Army Yellow Fever Board ventured to Cuba, where Finlay tried to persuade him to study mosquitoes as possible carriers of the disease. Though unconvinced at first, Reed researched the possible transmission of yellow fever by mosquitoes and concluded that Finlay was indeed right. This discovery helped eradicate yellow fever in Panama and Cuba. Finlay eventually became Chief Sanitation Officer in 1902, and after his death in 1915 the Finlay Institute for Investigations in Tropical Medicine was established in his honor.