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August 8, 2006

Michio Kaku ( Kanji: 加來 紀雄) (born January 24, 1947 in the United States) is a Japanese American theoretical physicist, tenured professor, and co-creator of string field theory, a branch of string theory. Kaku received a B.S. ( summa cum laude) from Harvard University in 1968 where he came first in his physics class. He went on to the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley and received a Ph.D. in 1972. In 1973, he held a lectureship at Princeton University.

Dr. Kaku is the author of several scholarly, Ph.D.-level textbooks and has had more than 70 articles published in physics journals covering topics such as superstring theory, supergravity, supersymmetry, and hadronic physics. He is also known as an author of popular science books, including the best-sellers Beyond Einstein, Visions, Hyperspace, and Parallel Worlds, and the host of several radio shows, as well as being a popular figure in science television shows due to his accessible approach to the layperson on explaining complex physics.

July 31, 2006

Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell (August 11, 1818 – June 28, 1889) was an American astronomer. Born on Nantucket Island, she was a first cousin four times removed of Benjamin Franklin.

Her parents were Quakers who, unconventionally for their time, insisted on giving her the same quality of education that boys received. She worked as a librarian and also pursued astronomy at her father's observatory.

Using a telescope, she discovered "Miss Mitchell's Comet" (Comet 1847 VI, modern designation is C/1847 T1) in the autumn of 1847. Some years previously, King Frederick VI of Denmark had established gold medal prizes to each discoverer of a "telescopic comet" (too faint to be seen with the naked eye). The prize was to be awarded to the "first discoverer" of each such comet (note that comets are often independently discovered by more than one person). She duly won one of these prizes, and this gave her worldwide fame, since the only previous woman to discover a comet had been Caroline Herschel.

There was a temporary question of priority because Francesco de Vico had independently discovered the same comet two days later, but had reported it first; however, this was resolved in Mitchell's favor. The prize was awarded in 1848 by the new king Frederick VII.

June 1, 2006

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934) was a famous Spanish histologist, physician, and Nobel laureate. He is considered to be one of the founders of modern neuroscience. His most famous studies were on the fine structure of the central nervous system. Cajal used a histological staining technique developed by his contemporary Camillo Golgi. Golgi found that by treating brain tissue with a silver chromate solution, a relatively small number of neurons in the brain were darkly stained. This allowed him to resolve in detail the structure of individual neurons and led him to conclude that nervous tissue was a continuous reticulum (or web) of interconnected cells much like those in the circulatory system. Using Golgi's method, Ramón y Cajal reached a very different conclusion. He postulated that the nervous system is made up of billions of separate neurons and that these cells are polarized. Rather than forming a continuous web, Cajal suggested that neurons communicate with each other via specialized junctions called "synapses". This hypothesis became the basis of the neuron doctrine, which states that the individual unit of the nervous system is a single neuron. Electron microscopy later showed that a plasma membrane completely enclosed each neuron, supporting Cajal's theory, and weakening Golgi's reticular theory.

May 24, 2006

Emil Adolf von Behring

Emil Adolf von Behring (March 15, 1854 – March 31, 1917) was born at Hansdorf, Eylau, Germany (as Emil Adolf Behring). Between 1874 and 1878, he studied medicine at the Army Medical College in Berlin. He was mainly a military doctor and then became Professor of Hygienics within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Marburg. Behring was the discoverer of diphtheria antitoxin and attained a great reputation by that means and by his contributions to the study of immunity. He won the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901 for developing a serum therapy against diphtheria (this was worked on with Emile Roux) and tetanus. The former had been a scourge of the population, especially children, whereas the other was a leading cause of death in wars, killing the wounded.

May 15, 2006

Leonhard Euler.jpg

Leonhard Euler (April 15, 1707 Basel, Switzerland - September 18, 1783 St Petersburg, Russia) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist. He is considered to be the dominant mathematician of the 18th century and one of the greatest mathematicians of all time; he is certainly among the most prolific, with collected works filling over 70 volumes. Euler developed many important concepts and proved numerous lasting theorems in diverse areas of mathematics, from calculus to number theory to topology. In the course of this work, he introduced much of modern mathematical terminology, defining the concept of a function, and its notation, such as sin, cos, and tan for the trigonometric functions.

May 4 ,2006

Claudius Galenus of Pergamum ( 129- 200 AD), better known in English as Galen, was an ancient Greek physician. His views dominated European medicine for over a thousand years. From the modern viewpoint, Galen's theories were partially correct, partially flawed. He demonstrated that arteries carry blood, not air and made first studies about nerve functions, and the brain and heart. He also argued that the mind was in the brain, not in the heart as Aristotle had claimed.

However, much of Galen's understanding is flawed from the modern point of view. He did not recognize blood circulation and thought that venous and arterial systems were separate. This view did not change until William Harvey's work in the 17th century. Since most of his knowledge of anatomy was based on dissection of pigs, dogs, and Barbary apes, he also assumed that rete mirabile, a blood vessel plexus of ungulates, also existed in the human body. He also resisted the idea of tourniquets to stop bleeding and vigorously propagated blood letting as a treatment.

April 28, 2006

Wolfgang Ernst Pauli (April 25, 1900–December 15, 1958) was an Austrian physicist noted for his work on the theory of spin, and in particular the discovery of the Exclusion principle, which underpins the whole of chemistry and quantum mechanics.

He seldom published papers, preferring lengthy correspondences with colleagues (such as Bohr and Heisenberg, with whom he had close friendships.) Many of his ideas and results were never published and appeared only in his letters, which were often copied and circulated by their recipients. Pauli was apparently unconcerned that much of his work thus went uncredited.

February 26, 2006

NonFreeImageRemoved.svg Francis Crick, (1916 – 2004) was a British physicist, molecular biologist and neuroscientist, most noted for being one of the co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. He, James D. Watson, and Maurice Wilkins were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.

February 8, 2006

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 - 16 April 1958) was a British physical chemist and crystallographer who made very important contributions to the understanding of the fine structures of coal and graphite, DNA and viruses. Franklin is best known for her contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, while working at King's College London under the direction of physicist John Randall. By the time the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Crick, Watson, and her colleague Wilkins, she had been dead for 4 years. She subsequently became an icon in feminist literature.

February 1, 2006

Aristarchus ( 310 BC - c. 230 BC) was a Greek astronomer and mathematician, born in Samos, Greece. He is the first recorded person to propose a heliocentric model of the solar system, placing the Sun, not the Earth, at the center of the known universe (hence he is sometimes known as the "Greek Copernicus"). His astronomical ideas were not well-received and were subordinated to those of Aristotle and Ptolemy, until they were successfully revived and developed by Copernicus nearly 2000 years later.

January 15, 2006

Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was one of the most influential American physicists of the 20th century, expanding greatly upon the theory of quantum electrodynamics. As well as being an inspiring lecturer and amateur musician, he helped in the development of the atomic bomb and was later a member of the panel which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. For his work on quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, along with Julian Schwinger and Shin-Ichiro Tomonaga.

Feynman was a keen and influential popularizer of physics in both his books and lectures, notably a seminal 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. He is also famous for his many adventures, detailed in the books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, What Do You Care What Other People Think? and Tuva or Bust!. Richard Feynman was, in many respects, an eccentric and a free spirit.

December 22, 2005

Isaac Newton at age 46 in Godfrey Kneller's 1689 portrait.

Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor, philosopher and alchemist. A man of profound genius, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists in history. He is associated with the scientific revolution and the advancement of heliocentrism. Among his scientific accomplishments, Newton wrote the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, wherein he described universal gravitation and, via his laws of motion, laid the groundwork for classical mechanics. With Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz he shares credit for the development of differential calculus. Newton was the first to promulgate a set of natural laws that could govern both terrestrial motion and celestial motion, and is credited with providing mathematical substantiation for Kepler's laws of planetary motion, which he expanded by arguing that orbits (such as those of comets) could include all conic sections (such as the ellipse, hyperbola, and parabola).