Illuminated physicistGertrude Neumark Rothschild

Born in Germany, she fled the Nazis to the U.S., where she became a physicist. Rothschild (who usually went by her unmarried name, Neumark) is best known for her work on improving light emitting diodes — LEDs. Her ideas led to blue and ultraviolet LEDs, which paved the way for increased density in data applications, such as the “Blu-Ray” disks, as well as sharper TV screens, mobile phone displays, and other devices. She was awarded several patents for her work, and in 2005 filed lawsuits against more than 40 electronics companies which were using her ideas in consumer products. It wasn’t so much for the money, she said, but rather the principle. “I just want recognition for the work that I did,” she said later, “and I want to show that women can do science.” But there was a lot of money at stake: the companies paid more than $27 million in settlements and licensing fees, her lawyer says. Dr. Neumark died November 11 from heart failure, at 83.

From This is True for 21 November 2010