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Historic LGBTQ in STEM*

Los Angeles County

Scientists, LGBTQ

Images combined from RF Studio via Pexels.com and TheDigitalArtist via Pixabay.com.

Neil Divine - Astrophysicist

b. 1939 - d. 1994

Born in Orlando, Florida, Dr. Neil Divine earned his doctorate in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology in 1965.

Divine went on to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for 25 years, contributing to the interplanetary space probe missions of Voyager, Galileo, CRAF, and Cassini-Huygens.

His research made major scientific contributions, including to modern theory of star formation and prediction of meteoroid and space debris. His work defined the complex environments that space probes face, including radiation belts around the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus, and dust environments around comets.

Margery I. Cook - Research Virologist

b. 1925 - d. 2001

Born in Independence, Missouri, Dr. Margery Cook earned her doctorate in Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UCLA in 1968.

In 1971, she and mentor Dr. Jack Stevens, published the first direct evidence that herpes simplex (the virus causing cold sores) can establish persistent latent infection in the spinal ganglia of mice. In 1987, she produced a report that the herpes simplex genome can remain harbored in trigeminal ganglia (a complex of nerves in the head and face area).

She retired from research and teaching at UCLA in 1993.

Sally Ride - Physicist, Astronaut

b. 1951 - d. 2012

The first American woman to travel into space, Sally Ride was one of the crew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1983. Born in Los Angeles, Ride went on to earn a doctorate in Physics at Stanford University in 1978.

Shortly after earning her doctorate, she was one of 35 selected by NASA to be astronauts from 8,000 applicants.

On June 18, 1983, Ride was one of the crew of the seventh space shuttle mission launched into orbit, on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Although the first American woman in space, she followed two other women into space, Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova (Vostok 6, 1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (Soyuz T-7, 1982).

On October 5, 1984, Ride was launched into space for a second time, again aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. On that mission, her colleague, astronaut Kathy Sullivan, became the first American woman to walk in space.

In 2001, after leaving NASA, Ride joined several others to establish a private company, Sally Ride Science, to inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and promote literacy in these fields.

Kate Hutton - Seismologist

b. 1973 -

For 37 years, Dr. Kate Hutton, the woman nicknamed the "Earthquake Lady," monitored Southern California earthquake activity, often appearing in the media (with colleague Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey), to explain earthquake events in California and elsewhere in the world. Dr. Hutton served as a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and became sought after by local and international media for her ability to explain the complexities of the science of earthquake science for the public. Her original education was in astronomy, but, finding no job opportunities in that science, started her career in CalTech's seismology lab. She retired from CalTech in 2015.


* STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics