Helen Murray Free Chemist

Born in Philadelphia, Murray’s mother died from influenza six years later. During World War II, women were encouraged to go into more “male-dominated” professions to take up the slack left by the men going to war. Murray chose chemistry, wanting to do research. She received a job offer from Miles Laboratories, best known as the … Read more

From This is True for 2 May 2021

Daniel Kaminsky Internet security researcher

Born in San Francisco, Calif., Kaminsky’s father bought him a computer …at age 4. By the time he was 5, Kaminsky had taught himself how to program it. At 11, his mother received a call from a government security administrator who told her that Daniel had used “penetration testing” to intrude into military computers, and … Read more

From This is True for 25 April 2021

Chuck Geschke Software visionary

With a master’s degree in mathematics, Geschke taught math at John Carroll University starting in 1963. But then he got interested in computers, and once completing a Ph.D in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in 1972, he quickly landed a position at Xerox’s famed Palo Alto Research Center. He built a mainframe computer, worked … Read more

From This is True for 18 April 2021

Isamu Akasaki Blue physicist

Born in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, after his schooling Akasaki took a series of research positions with industry and universities. His goal: to produce cheap, stable, and (especially) bright blue lasers and LEDs. Why? White light can be created by mixing red, green, and blue (“RGB”). Red and green lasers/LEDs had been perfected, but adding blue … Read more

From This is True for 11 April 2021

Gianluigi Colalucci Art restorer

Born in Rome, Colalucci graduated from Italy’s Istituto Centrale del Restauro (Central Institute for Restoration), where he studied under art historian Cesare Brandi. Colalucci restored artworks by Raphael, Giotto, Titian, and Buonamico Buffalmacco, among others. The “among others” is key: he is best known for just one job — “the restoration of the century”: Michelangelo’s … Read more

From This is True for 4 April 2021

Beverly Cleary Writer

Growing up in rural Yamhill, Ore., “The first grade was sorted into three reading groups,” Cleary said. “Bluebirds, Redbirds and Blackbirds. I was a Blackbird. To be a Blackbird was to be disgraced. I wanted to read, but somehow could not.” But once she could read, she found books for her age range were boring, … Read more

From This is True for 28 March 2021

Glynn Lunney Flight Director

Born in the coal mining town of Old Forge, Pa., Lunney’s father, a miner turned welder, told him to get an education so he had a life outside mining. The boy was interested in model airplanes, so when the time came he decided to study engineering at the University of Scranton, and in 1955 transferred … Read more

From This is True for 21 March 2021

Allan McDonald Rocket engineer

After growing up in Montana, McDonald graduated from Montana State University with a degree in chemical engineering in 1959. He quickly got a job with Thiokol to work on designing rockets for the Minuteman missile. In 1974, Thiokol won a contract to build the solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Shuttle program, and Thiokol put … Read more

From This is True for 14 March 2021

Nikki Van der Zyl Voice actress

Born in Berlin, Germany, Van der Zyl’s father, a rabbi, packed up the family when she was 4 and fled to London as the Nazis came to power. There, she fell in with the local dramatics society. At 11 she was asked to help dub a German movie into English — naturally, she provided the … Read more

From This is True for 7 March 2021

Rosamond Nkansah Police trailblazer

After attending Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast, Ghana, Nkansah became a teacher. Political leader Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who later became the first president of Ghana, directed that the Gold Coast Police Force (now Ghana Police Service) start recruiting women as officers, and on September 1, 1952, Nkansah was not only the first of … Read more

From This is True for 28 February 2021