Famous Kansans » Science
- Born: June 30, 1942
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Wichita
Robert Ballard is a world renowned oceanographer who is noted for his work in underwater archaeology of shipwrecks and famous for his discovery of the wreckage of the RMS Titanic in 1985. He began his career in deep-sea exploration while in the navy while stationed at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts where he aided in research on submersion. In conjunction with the navy he created the Argo system, a system of robots attached to fiber optic cables which could prowl the extreme depths of the ocean safely. Using his new Argo he was able to find the Titanic in 1985 as well as the German battleship Bismarck, sunk during World War II, in 1989; the RMS Lusitania, sunk during World War I, in 1993; the USS Yorktown, sunk during World War II, in 1998; and several ancient shipwrecks in the Black Sea. He is a professor of oceanography and serves as Director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.
- Born: February 12, 1873
- Died: February 5, 1963
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Carbondale
Barnum Brown was a renowned paleontologist and was one of the most famous fossil hunters during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His claim to fame came in the early 1900s when he led and expedition to southeastern Montana and in 1902 he discovered and excavated the first documented remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex. Another of his most significant finds was made in 1910 when he uncovered several hind feet from a group of Albertosaurus. He had a friendly rivalry with the Sternberg family while he floated down the Red Deer River in Canada on a flatboat. Their competing discoveries went down in the annals of paleontology.
George Washington Carver
- Born: July 12, 1864
- Died: January 5, 1943
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Fort Scott, graduated high school in Minneapolis, homesteaded near Beeler
George Washington Carver was a scientist and innovator who was known for his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as soybeans, sweet potatoes and especially peanuts. Born the son of slaves, he was the first African-American to attend Iowa State University, earning a master's degree in agricultural science, and was later the first African-American faculty member in the school's history. In 1896 he signed on at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to its agricultura department and researched and taught there for nearly 50 years. While there he developed techniques to improve soil depletion by practicing crop rotation, invented ways to turning soybeans into plastic, wood shavings into synthetic marble, cotton into paving blocks and over 300 uses for the peanut to help with life at home and on a farm. Numerous schools are named in his honor and in 1953 the George Washington Carver National Monument was opened in Missouri, the first national monument dedicated to an African-American and the first to honor someone other than a president.
- Born: September 17, 1862
- Died: July 12, 1954
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Dodge City and Topeka
Samuel Crumbine was a pioneer in public health who campaigned against the common drinking cup, the common towel and spitting in public in order to prevent the spread of tuberculosis and other germs. He began his medical career in Dodge City in the late 1880s and is said to be the model for the character of "Doc Adams" on the television show Gunsmoke. In 1899 he was appointed to the State Board of Health in Topeka and became part-time secretary and executive officer in 1904. In 1905 he invented the flyswatter and encouraged the public to "swat the fly" to combat the insects's spread of disease. He authored Frontier Doctor: The Autobiography of a Pioneer on the Frontier of Public Health, which described his medical practice on the Kansas frontier.
- Born: November 8, 1923
- Died: June 20, 2005
- Connection to Kansas: Raised in Great Bend
Jack Kilby was and electrical engineer whose invention of the integrated circuit, or microchip, changed the world and gave rise to the modern computer era. In 1958 he was working for Texas Instruments when he created the first integrated circuit and a patent was filed in 1959. He went on to pioneer military, industrial and commercial applications of microchip technology and headed teams that built both the first military system and the first computer incorporating microchips. He later co-invented the handheld calculator and the thermal printer. He held over 60 patents and received numerous awards including the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics. He was named Kansas of the Year in 2002 by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas.
- Born: March 3, 1879
- Died: November 15, 1967
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Fort Scott
Elmer McCollum was a biochemist known for his work on the influence of diet on health. Through his research and testing he discovered Vitamins A, B, D and E and devised the vitamin naming system. He showed that vitamin D prevented the bone disease rickets and he discovered the importance of trace metals in ones diet. He wrote four books on nutrition including The Newer Knowledge of Nutrition which went through multiple editions and influenced many dietitians.
- Born: July 22, 1893
- Died: July 18, 1990
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka
Karl Menninger was a renowned psychiatrist and was said to have made more of an impact on American psychiatry than any other person. He, along with his father Charles, opened the Menninger Clinic, a clinic where a patient's mental health would be as important as their mental health. He later opened the Southard School, one of the first institutions for children with mental health disabilities. Following World War II he helped establish the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital in Topeka, the largest psychiatric training center in the world. Aside from his clinic work, he built an international reputation through his writings, writing five books on psychiatry. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981 and was named Kansan of the Year in 1956 by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas.
William J. Purvis & Charles A. Wilson
- Born: Unknown
- Died: Unknown
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Goodland
William J. Purvis and Charles A. Wilson were inventors who came up with a two-story vehicle designed to take off and land vertically, a helicopter. They built a model which achieved flight and they formed the Goodland Aviation Company, sold stock and filed for a patent in 1910. Sadly, the full- size version did not lift off the ground, but remained stationary. Soon after they disbanded the company and sold off the property and materials. However, the patent was issued in 1912 crediting them with the first patented helicopter. A replica of their machine sit in the High Planes Museum in Goodland.
George F. Sternberg
- Born: August 26, 1883
- Died: October 23, 1969
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Lawrence
George F. Sternberg was a renowned paleontologist in who made fossil discoveries in Kansas, the Midwest and Canada. His father and uncle were well respected paleontologists and at the age of nine he accompanied his father to a site in Logan County where he made his first discovery, a nearly complete Plesiosaur. He conducted numerous excavations during his career where he discovered a giant buffalo near Hoxie, Kansas, a Triceratops in Wyoming and discovered a new sub-family of mastodons in South America. His most famous find was the "fish-within-a-fish," a fourteen-foot fish with a perfectly preserved six-foot fish in it's stomach. His discoveries have been displayed at the British Museum in London, the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and numerous museum throughout Kansas. The Sternberg Museum of Natuarl History at Fort Hays State University in Hays is named in honor of him and his fossil hunting family.
Earl Wilbur Sutherland, Jr.
- Born: November 19, 1915
- Died: March 9, 1974
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Burlingame
Earl Wilbur Sutherland, Jr. was a pharmacologist and biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1971 for his discoveries concerning the mechanisms of the action of hormones. While working at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, he was able to isolate a previously unknown chemical, called cyclic AMP, and proved that it functioned in an intermediary role in many hormonal functions. Further research showed that cyclic AMP also was instrumental in the transmission of genetic information and in abnormal cell growth. Scientists throughout the world have called his discovery "monumental" and many have built their research on his studies.
- Born: February 4, 1906
- Died: January 17, 1997
- Connection to Kansas: Raised in Burdett
Clyde Tombaugh was an astronomer who is credited with the discovery of the planet Pluto in 1930. As a child he had a fascination with astronomy and even made his own telescopes from mirrors he made himself and parts from farm equipment. He began working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1929 and used a blink comparator, a machine that blinked back and forth between two images at a speed to make the two appear as one, to look at images of the sky when he made the discovery. It was officially announced that a new planet was found on March 13, 1930 and he became famous astronomer. He is credited with the discovery of several galactic star clusters, numerous asteroids, a comet and many other observations. In 2006 the space explorer New Horizons was launched to examine Pluto and onboard the vehicle is a canister containing some of Tombaugh's ashes. It is scheduled to reach Pluto in 2015.