Highlights of the latest update


One year ago this month, hundreds of thousands of scientists and concerned citizens marched in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the world to celebrate the ways in which science enriches our lives. The March for Science occurred amidst threatened federal budget cuts and attacks on climate science and environmentalism. “Today we have a great many lawmakers—not just here but around the world—deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science,” said popular television scientist Bill Nye, speaking in a rainy Washington. “Their inclination is misguided and in no one's best interest. Our lives are in every way improved by having clean water, reliable electricity and access to electronic global information.”

Indeed, a scientist’s work very often has a dramatic—but sometimes unintended or unanticipated—impact on society at large. This month’s update features over twenty biographies that exemplify the connection between the lab, the field, the library, and everyday life. For example, the work of scientists such as reproductive biologist Min Cheuh Chang and organic chemist Carl Djerassi created a pill that gave women access to easy and inexpensive birth control. On the other hand, the work of physicist Edward Teller birthed the atomic warfare that haunts the planet to this day.

We’re also featuring a number of social scientists whose research has changed the ways we view the world and the ways we live. Evelyn Hooker’s pathbreaking research in psychology helped to destigmatize being gay and permanently removed homosexuality as a clinical disorder. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz upended the social sciences with his concept of “thick description,” the idea that one can only understand other cultures by viewing them on their own terms and understanding how they use codes and symbols to communicate and to create norms of behavior.

We’re also excited to feature previously published biographies that speak to these themes. Rachel Carson offers an interesting example. Gender discrimination kept Carson from field work in biology, so she put her training to work as a writer. Her 1962 book Silent Spring launched the modern environmentalist movement. Other featured essays include Barry Commoner, J. Robert Oppenheimer, C. Wright Mills, Mamie Phipps Clark, and Kenneth Clark.

-- Rob Heinrich, Research Editor


Discover the 23 new biographies added in this update, of subjects who have helped to shape the history of the United States. You can also view a full list of entries added this year.

Find out how to subscribe to the full set of biographies and uncover an assortment of lives that may have previously been unknown to you.