In 1911, physicist George de Hevesy suspected his landlady was bulking up his meals with leftovers; he proved it by sprinkling radioactive material over his dinner and detecting it in the next day’s portion.
In the early 1940s a Mexican scientist named Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena created a color television system some considered better than any American system at the time. His work made it possible in the 1970s for NASA to transmit color photos of Jupiter from the Voyager satellite.
After losing her position in her university’s anatomy department in 1938, Rita Levi-Montalcini set up a laboratory in her bedroom and studied the growth of nerve fibers in chicken embryos. This work led to her discovery of nerve growth factor, for which she was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1986.
Henry Cavendish, noted for his discovery of hydrogen, was a “notoriously shy man”. He communicated with his female servants only by notes. By one account, Cavendish had a back staircase added to his house to avoid encountering his housekeeper.
In Russian culture “British Scientists” is a running joke and Internet meme used as an ironic reference to absurd news reports about scientific discoveries, particularly ones that have no practical value. For example, “British scientists debunked the myth that mice love cheese.”
Kay Antonelli‘s official civil service title, as printed on her employment documentation, was “computer”. During her work as a computer, she invented the subroutine (a sequence of computer instructions which can be used repeatedly). Today, the subroutine is essential programming for all.
A unit of ‘shyness’ called a dirac is named after the famous theoretical physicist and father of quantum physics, Paul Dirac. Known for his succinctness, his colleagues jokingly defined 1 dirac as 1 word per hour.
In 1918, microbiologist Alice Catherine Evans warned that raw milk should be pasteurized to protect people from various diseases. She was met with skepticism, particularly because she was a woman and did not have a Ph.D. During the 1920s, scientists around the world made the same findings.
In 1749 a scientist, Emilie du Châtelet, feared that bearing a child at 42 would be the last thing she did. She worked furiously on a magnum opus that would eventually change the world of physics. Within days of completing her work, she gave birth to a daughter and died soon after.
For months, scientists in France could not figure out why seagulls they were tracking were traveling far inland, away from their breeding colony. Eventually, they traced the seagulls’ path and discovered they were visiting a chip factory.