Categotry Archives: Scientists


Joep Lange

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Categories: Medicine, Scientists

Joep LangeJoseph “Joep” Lange, a pioneer in the field of AIDS research and the former president of the International AIDS Society, was killed in a plane crash on July 17. He was 59.

Lange dedicated his life to researching HIV. Since 1983, he has been studying the virus and working to develop possible treatments. According to his official bio, Lange was the architect and principal investigator of several pivotal trials on antiretroviral therapy and on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Joep had an absolute commitment to HIV treatment and care in Asia and Africa,” Professor David A Cooper stated. “The joy in collaborating with Joep was that he would always bring a fresh view, a unique take on things, and he never accepted that something was impossible to achieve.”

From 1992 to 1995, Lange was chief of clinical research and drug development at the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva. He was president of the International AIDS Society from 2002 to 2004 as well as the founder and the chairman of the PharmAccess Foundation, which is dedicated to improving access to health care in Africa, and the founder and editor-in-chief of the journal Antiviral Therapy.

The author of more than 350 papers in peer-reviewed journals, Lange was the 2007 recipient of the Eijkman Medal for his achievements in tropical medicine and international health.

At the time of his death, Lange was a professor of internal medicine, the head of the Department of Global Health at the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam and executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development.

Dr. Seema Yasmin, a staff writer at the Dallas Morning News, took to Twitter to praise Lang’s professional accomplishments and the love he had for his five daughters.

“Ask anyone who knew him. Joep was often times cooking for his five girls while on conference calls discussing HIV,” Dr. Yasmin wrote. “I asked him why he worked so much. He said, ‘Do you know how much it costs to buy shoes for five girls?’ He was a kind man and a true humanitarian.”

Lange was one of about 100 people on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 who were heading to Melbourne to attend the International AIDS Conference. The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot out of the sky near the Russia-Ukraine border, killing all 298 people on board.

Lange’s wife, Jacqueline van Tongeren, was also among the crash victims.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.


Herbert Saffir

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Categories: Scientists

hsaffir.jpgHerbert Saffir, a structural engineer who helped design the category system for describing the strength of hurricanes, died on Nov. 21 from a heart attack. He was 90.

The native New Yorker earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech, then moved to South Florida to work as an assistant county engineer. Although he would eventually design 50 bridges, the location of his new home sparked a life-long interest in hurricanes. Saffir soon immersed himself in the study of the weather phenomenon and its effects on buildings. This knowledge helped him write and unify building codes in the area.

In 1969, the United Nations asked Saffir to determine how the organization could help reduce wind damage to low-cost buildings worldwide. In response, he invented a scale that would measure the intensity of a storm, and thus determine the kind of damage it would do to an area.

Saffir’s scale, which ranked hurricanes from 1 to 5, were based on sustained wind speeds and the corresponding damage they caused. A Category 1 storm, for example, would have sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph. These conditions could uproot trees and blow over unanchored mobile homes. A Category 5 storm, which has sustained winds greater than 155 mph, could completely destroy structures in the storm’s path, no matter how well they are engineered. Before Saffir devised his scale, meteorologists simply described hurricanes as “major” or “minor” storms.

In the 1970s, Robert H. Simpson, then director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center, expanded Saffir’s scale to include possible storm-surge heights for each category. The revised system, known as the Saffir-Simpson scale became the standard by which all Atlantic Ocean-based hurricanes are rated.

During the final years of his life, Saffir continued to work as a structural engineer in South Florida. An advocate of stronger building codes in hurricane-prone areas, he also penned numerous articles on how to design buildings with high wind resistance and lobbied for tougher enforcement of building codes.


Charles L. Remington

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Categories: Education, Scientists

cremington.jpgCharles Lee Remington, a renowned naturalist and educator who was considered the father of modern lepidoptery, died on May 31. Cause of death was not released. He was 85.
Born in Reedville, Va., Remington spent much of his childhood in St. Louis chasing and collecting butterflies with his father, P. Sheldon Remington. His passion for butterflies continued into adulthood; he studied biology at Principia College in Illinois and served as a medical entomologist during World War II. Remington’s work in the Pacific involved researching the insect-borne epidemics the servicemen experienced. Remington even suffered from the “fiery pain” of a centipede bite in the Philippines when one of the creatures made a snack out of his armpit. After extracting the insect from his sleeping bag, Remington preserved the specimen and later shared it with his students.
Upon his return to the states, Remington received his Ph.d from Harvard University, where he worked on the systematics of bristletails (silverfish) and other primitive arthropods. In 1947, he co-founded The Lepidopterists’ Society, an organization dedicated to fostering collaborative research and exchange on butterflies and moths. The society, which has thousands of members in over 60 countries, publishes the Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society. Remington served as president of the society and editor of its journal.
In 1948, Remington took a teaching position in the department of zoology at Yale University. Over the next 44 years, he taught a variety of courses on ecology, evolution, entomology, bioethics, endangered species and the biodiversity crisis, and became a mentor to several generations of scientists and amateur collectors, including author Vladimir Nabokov, monarch biologist Lincoln Brower and nature writer Robert Michael Pyle. In 1958, he was a Guggenheim Fellow at Oxford University.
Remington’s research outside the classroom focused on evolution, specifically a theory he developed called the “biological species concept.” Remington believed that plants, insects and mammals in certain isolated areas, called suture zones, tended to interbreed, or hybridize, with close relatives. This biological phenomenon was originally discredited by others in the field, but has since been revived and reconsidered.
Although Yale didn’t have an insect collection when he arrived, Remington became curator of the entomology division at the Peabody Museum of Natural History and created one from scratch. His collection eventually contained 2.5 million specimens, including the world’s largest collection of insects that are gynandromorphs (part male and part female).
In his free time, Remington founded the New Haven Entomological Society, a group that promotes entomology in Connecticut, and the Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on invertebrates which are essential to biological diversity. He also co-founded Zero Population Growth, a grassroots organization dedicated to controlling overpopulation.
In 1996, Remington created the first U.S. preserve for the Magicicada, a cicada that appears by the millions once every 17 years. The cicada’s arrival in the summer of that year brought Remington a unique form of fame; he discussed the creature at length with numerous media outlets, and described the insect as a culinary treat. To prove his point, he cooked and ate several boiled and fried cicadas on camera.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Don Herbert


Categories: Actors, Education, Hollywood, Media, Scientists

mrwizard.jpgScience is fun for everyone. That’s the message Donald Jeffry Herbert tried to convey to millions of children as “Mr. Wizard.”

Herbert made the subject of science seem both mysterious and magical. His weekly, half-hour educational program, “Watch Mr. Wizard,” which aired in black and white on NBC from 1951 to 1964, introduced young viewers to the joys of conducting experiments with simple household items. With the help of his young assistants, Mr. Wizard explained what makes a cake rise, how water comes out of a kitchen tap and why seashells sound like the ocean. He even showed kids how to cook a hot dog with a battery.

“Watch Mr. Wizard” won a Peabody Award and three Thomas Alva Edison National Mass Media Awards, and was reinvented on Nickelodeon in the 1980s as “Mr. Wizard’s World.” In both programs, Herbert eschewed a lab coat and professorial attitude. Instead his informal approach to teaching made science accessible, and instilled a sense of wonder in his audience. “Over the years, Don has been personally responsible for more people going into the sciences than any other single person in this country,” George Tressel, a National Science Foundation official, once said.

Born in Waconia, Minn., Herbert always had a passion for the theatre. In high school, he played the lead role in the school play; in college, he was the director of the Pioneer Players. He graduated from La Crosse State Teacher’s College with a degree in English and science, then spent the next several years honing his acting skills. He worked as a stage hand and actor for the Minnesota Stock Co., did summer stock with Nancy Davis (Reagan) and performed as magician and master of ceremonies in Winnipeg, Canada. He had just moved to New York City to break into the big time when World War II put a hold on his show business plans.

Herbert enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, and graduated from his training as a pilot and second lieutenant. He was shipped overseas, where he completed 56 bombing missions over northern Italy, Germany and Yugoslavia. For courage under fire, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak-leaf clusters.

Upon his return to the states, Herbert moved to Chicago, where he worked as an actor, model and writer. He taught radio writing at the Chicago Radio Institute, and developed programs based on interviews he captured on his portable audio tape recorder. Many of those interviews ended up on the radio show “It’s Your Life.”

When Herbert created an early version of his “Mr. Wizard” show and presented it to potential advertisers, none of them were interested. Once he turned the program over to producer Charles Power, however, “Watch Mr. Wizard” found both a sponsor (The Cereal Institute) and a home (WMAQ, Chicago’s NBC affiliate). During its first year on the air, Herbert produced 28 live episodes. The following year, 1952, he produced 39 “Watch Mr. Wizard” episodes and began appearing on CBS as a progress reporter for “General Electric Theater.” After profiles of Herbert appeared in American Boy magazine, Science Digest and TV Guide, thousands of Mr. Wizard Science Clubs formed in the United States.

NBC canceled “Watch Mr. Wizard” in 1965, but Herbert continued his campaign to educate the youth of North America. He went to Canada and produced “Mr. Wizard,” a TV show that was carried on the CBC nationwide. He received grants from the National Science Foundation and The Arthur P. Sloane Foundation and used the money to make the “Experiment Series.” Herbert wrote/illustrated articles for the “Science for the Classroom From Mr. Wizard” series, and penned several books, including “Mr. Wizard’s 400 Experiments in Science” and “Mr. Wizard’s Supermarket Science.” He also created more than 100 “How About…” reports that were freely distributed to television stations.

In 1986, Herbert received a Golden Anniversary Award from Ohio State University, and a “Distinguished Television Science Reporting” honor from AAS/Westinghouse Science Journalism Awards. Five years later, he was given the Robert A, Millikan Award from the American Association or Physics Teachers for his “notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics.” When he received the Council for Elementary Science International’s Science Advocate Award in 2000, an audience of 1,000 science teachers gave him a standing ovation.

Herbert died on June 12 of bone cancer. He was 89. Less than a week after his death, the U.S. House of Representatives honored him for his “profound public service and educational contributions.”

Watch the Opening Credits for “Mr. Wizard’s World”


Wally Schirra

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Military, Scientists

wshirra.jpgWalter Marty “Wally” Schirra Jr., the only astronaut who flew in three of the nation’s pioneering space programs (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo), died on May 3 from a heart attack. He was 84.
Born in Hackensack, N.J., Schirra was raised by a pair of barnstormers. His father, who was an officer in the Army Signal Corps, flew bombing and reconnaissance missions over Germany in World War I, and later performed stunts in a bi-plane at county fairs and air circuses. His mother sometimes performed wing-walking stunts during these shows. Although Schirra was only 13 years old when he first took the controls of his father’s plane, he knew flying would be a major part of his future. Schirra graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1945 and earned his wings in 1948. During the Korean War, he flew 90 missions and brought down two enemy planes. Upon his return to the states, Schirra completed his coursework at Safety Officers School (University of Southern California) in 1957 and graduated from the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1958. A year later, he began a rigorous training program to become one of the world’s first astronauts.
Seven men were chosen from a pool of 110 candidates to become pilots for America’s first space flight program, the Mercury 7 project. Schirra was a member of that elite group, along with Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Donald “Deke” Slayton. Schirra piloted the fifth Mercury flight on the Sigma 7, which orbited the Earth six times over nine hours in 1962. He served as backup command pilot for the Gemini 3 mission and commanded the history-making Gemini 6 flight in 1965. During the Gemini 6 mission, the crew made the first non-docking rendezvous with the orbiting Gemini 7 spacecraft — and drank the first cup of coffee in space.
Schirra’s final mission in 1968 involved commanding Apollo 7, the first manned flight of the Apollo program. During the course of the 11-day mission, the crew made 163 orbits, provided the first televised pictures from an American spacecraft and helped qualify the spacecraft for later moon missions. With Schirra’s death, Glenn and Carpenter are the last remaining survivors of the original Mercury astronauts. The trio were featured in the 1979 book, “The Right Stuff,” by Tom Wolfe, and in the 1983 film adaptation of the same name. Actor Lance Henriksen portrayed Schirra in the movie.
In 1969, Schirra retired from the Navy as a captain and left NASA, having logged 295 hours and 15 minutes in space. After exiting the space program, he worked as an analyst for CBS News and became president of Regency Investors Inc., a financial company based in Denver. Schirra spent several years participating in various other business ventures before opening his own consultancy, Schirra Enterprises, in 1979. Five years later, he helped found the Mercury Seven Foundation (now the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation), which creates college scholarships for science and engineering students. Schirra published his memoirs, “Schirra’s Space,” in 1988 and co-authored the 2005 book, “The Real Space Cowboys,” with Ed Buckbee, a former NASA public affairs officer and the first executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. He also became a celebrity spokesperson for Actifed, a cold medicine he used during the Apollo 7 mission.
Schirra received numerous honors, awards and commendations during the course of his military and space careers. He attained 3 honorary doctorate degrees: one in Astronautical Engineering from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, one in science from USC and one in astronautics from N.J.I.T. He earned three Air Medals, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, a U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal, a Kitty Hawk Award, a Great American Award, a Golden Key Award and a Haley Astronautic Award. Schirra was also inducted into the Aerospace Hall of Fame, the International Aviation Hall of Fame, the International Space Hall of Fame, the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. In 2005, he was named a NASA Ambassador of Exploration and presented with a moon rock in his name.
Although he was a hardworking and witty fellow, Schirra also had a reputation as a prankster. During his Mercury 7 flight, he smuggled a corned beef sandwich onboard inside his space suit to share with his crew. His most famous practical joke, however, occurred in 1965. Ten days before Christmas, Schirra and Stafford were approaching the West Coast when they reported seeing an unidentified flying object coming straight at them. A few minutes later, Stafford and Schirra began playing “Jingle Bells” on a harmonica and a string of bells, and declared the UFO to be Santa Claus.
“It was impossible to know Wally, even to meet him, without realizing at once that he was a man who relished the lighter side of life, the puns and jokes and pranks that can enliven a gathering. But this was a distraction from the true nature of the man. His record as a pioneering space pilot shows the real stuff of which he was made. We who have inherited today’s space program will always be in his debt,” Mike Griffin, NASA Administrator, stated.
Listen to a Remembrance From NPR
Watch a Tribute Video From Foolish Earthling Productions

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