W. Pa. Innovators' Contributions Resulted in Significant Change

By Leonard, Kim | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

W. Pa. Innovators' Contributions Resulted in Significant Change


Leonard, Kim, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Innovators have long called Pittsburgh home. Here's a look at 20 men and women whose contributions in science, medicine, journalism and the arts resulted in significant change.

Nellie Bly

(1864-1922)

The pioneering female newspaper reporter born Elizabeth Cochran grew up in Cochran's Mills, Armstrong County, and began her career at age 18 as a writer for The Pittsburgh Dispatch.

After joining the New York World in 1887, Bly feigned insanity to be committed to the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. Reforms of the deplorable living conditions there followed publication of her story.

Bly -- whose pen name came from a song written by another Pittsburgher, Stephen Foster -- famously beat fictional character Phileas Fogg's travel record in Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days." Readers followed her reports as she made the journey in just over 72 days.

John Brashear

(1840-1920)

Working from a factory on Perrysville Avenue in Pittsburgh's North Side, the inventor and astronomer developed a mirror silvering technique in 1880 that made telescopes more powerful.

His John A. Brashear Co. made precision mirrors, lenses and other instruments used in many observatories that generated wider interest in outer space.

Brashear directed the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh from 1898 to 1900, when he became chancellor of the school that now is the University of Pittsburgh.

Andrew Carnegie

(1835-1919)

The Scottish-born steel magnate and philanthropist developed an inexpensive and efficient way to mass produce steel in the late 19th century, using Bessemer furnace technology from England and integrating suppliers of raw materials.

Carnegie, who had worked as a Pennsylvania Railroad superintendent, founded the Keystone Bridge Works with several partners in 1865, after the Civil War increased demand for iron.

The Carnegie Steel Co. began a decade later, and Carnegie eventually owned an unprecedented network of iron and operations. Financier J.P. Morgan bought Carnegie's holdings in 1900, and formed the United States Steel Corp.

Believing that "a rich man who dies rich dies in disgrace," Carnegie donated more than $350 million to educational, cultural and peace institutions.

Mark Cuban

(1958 - )

A billionaire entrepreneur who got his start selling computer software, Cuban invests in technology companies, owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and is a sometime-actor and TV personality who also chairs and co-founded the pioneering high-definition network HDNet.

Cuban grew up in Mt. Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb, and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1981 from Indiana University.

After working briefly for a Dallas software retailer, he started MicroSolutions as a computer system integrator and software reseller and sold it in 1990 to CompuServe. Cuban and a partner also founded Broadcast.com, which Yahoo! acquired in 1999.

He bought a majority stake in the Mavericks in 2000 from H. Ross Perot Jr., and has been fined by the NBA several times for criticizing game officials and the league. In July, a federal judge tossed out an insider trading lawsuit against Cuban, related to his sale of stock in a search engine company.

Rachel Carson

(1907-1964)

Scientist Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring," which warned of the dangers of DDT and other pesticides used in farming, continues to be hailed by environmentalists.

Time Magazine once named her one of the 100 most influential Americans.

Carson's childhood home in Springdale, north of Pittsburgh, is preserved as a museum. She graduated from what now is Chatham University in 1929, and Johns Hopkins University in 1932 with a master's in zoology.

In 1972, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT. …

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