September 15th to October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States! CURes wants to take this opportunity to acknowledge the accomplishments of scientists and researchers from Spanish-speaking countries, who may have been historically left out of the narrative.
Carlos Juan Finlay (1833-1915) – Cuban physician who linked yellow fever to mosquitos in 1881, leading to disease control and reduction efforts, saving thousands of lives. He was the Chief Health Officer in Cuba from 1902-1909 and over the course of his life, published over 40 articles on yellow fever, as well as multiple articles on other communicative diseases.
Ynes Mexia (1870-1938) – Mexican-American biologist who discovered two new plant genera and 500 new plant species; today, 50 species are named after her. In the 1910s and 1920s, she traveled throughout Mexico, South America, and Alaska, collecting 145,000 specimens in just 13 years. She did not begin her botanical work until the age of 55, when she enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley.
Luis Federico Leloir (1906-1987) – Argentine physician and biochemist who isolated sugar nucleotides, thus allowing himself and others to better understand metabolic reactions. Along with his research team, Leloir primarily focused on glycoproteins. They determined the mechanisms of galactose metabolism, as well as the cause of galactosemia, a genetic disorder that results in lactose intolerance. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970.
Albert Baez (1912-2007) – Mexican-American physicist who co-invented the X-ray reflection microscope in 1948. He refused defense industry jobs during the Cold War to advocate for peace, focusing instead on education and humanitarianism. Baez worked with UNESCO in 1951 to help establish a physics department and laboratory at Baghdad University. In 1960, he also developed optics for X-ray telescopes.
Jacinto Convit (1913-2014) – Venezuelan physician who created a vaccine for leprosy in 1987. Prior to this discovery, he was elected President of the International Leprosy Association in 1968, named by the WHO as the Director of the Co-operative Centre for the Study and Histological Classification of Leprosy in 1971, and elected Director of the Pan American Research and Training in Leprosy and Tropical Diseases in 1976.
Helen Rodriguez Trias (1929-2001) – Puerto Rican-American pediatrician and healthcare advocate who improved access to public health for women and children. She was the first Hispanic President of the American Public Health Association and helped found the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse. In 2001, she received the Presidential Citizen’s Medal for her work with people suffering from HIV and AIDS. Trias is acknowledged for her work serving minority and low-income populations in the United States, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Mario J. Molina (1943-Present) – Mexican chemist and environmentalist who studies chloroflourocarbson (CFCs) and, in 1974, argued that their chemical reactions were destroying the ozone. He earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 and current works on strategic approaches to energy and the environment.
France A. Cordova (1947 – Present) – American astrophysicist who is the current Director of the National Science Foundation, nominated by President Obama in 2014. She also previously researched x-ray and gamma ray sources, accretion discs, and black holes. Additionally, in 1993, she was the first woman to be the Chief Scientist at NASA.
Ellen Ochoa (1958-Present) – American engineer who became an astronaut in 1991, the first Hispanic woman to do so. Over the course of four space flights, she logged nearly 1,000 hours in space. Ochoa also co-invented three patents in optics, object recognition, and image processing. In 2012, she became the first Hispanic person and second woman to be named the Director of the Johnson Space Center.