PEOPLE & PRIZES:
Louis Agassiz was the first person to propose that glaciers moved and shaped much of Europe. He was born in Switzerland and began his work there, but later moved to the United States and joined the faculty at Harvard University. There he married Elizabeth Gary Agassiz, who assisted him and also wrote about his work. Agassiz was also a paleontologist who did an exhaustive study of American natural history.
Georgius Agricola, called the father of mineralogy, studied the mineral composition of Earth. His books on the subject began the process of codification of minerals and metallurgy. He was born and worked in what is now Germany.
Howard Aiken was a trailblazer in the computer science field. He developed the Mark I computer, one of the first full-scale, programmable, digital computers. Born in the United States, he conducted most of his work at Harvard’s Computation Laboratory, which he founded.
Buzz Aldrin was the second person to step on the Moon, following Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. Prior to that flight, in 1966, Aldrin spent a record 5½ hours walking in space during the flight of Gemini 12, proving that a human being could survive the vacuum of space. Aldrin was born in Montclair, New Jersey.
American physicist Ralph Alpher has done theoretical work on the origin and evolution of the universe. In 1948 he proposed that the existence of so many chemical elements could be explained by a thermonuclear explosion in the early universe. He predicted that a “Big Bang” must have produced electromagnetic radiation that would still exist today, a theory later proven.
Luis Alvarez discovered resonance particles, objects produced during powerful subatomic collisions; the particles last for an infinitesimal time, only the moment it takes for light to cross them. His discovery earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1968. He was born in San Francisco, began his work at the University of Chicago, and later moved to the University of California at Berkeley. Alvarez is possibly most famous, however, for his claim in 1980 that a giant asteroid killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Then considered controversial, that theory has now been generally accepted.
American biologist Bruce Ames developed the Ames test, used to identify carcinogens, cancer-causing substances. He has theorized that body cells are continually being bombarded by harmful molecules and is studying how cells repair themselves.
André Ampère outlined the fundamental mathematical laws of electromagnetism. One of his most important contributions, which became known as Ampère’s Law, relates the magnetic force between two parallel currents to the product of their currents and to the distance between the conductors. Ampère was born in Lyons, France, and worked in Paris at the École Polytechnique, the University of Paris, and the Collège de France. The unit of electrical current, the ampere, is named after him.
Nicolas-François Appert was the first person to preserve food by sealing and heating jars, thereby initiating the practice of canning. Responding to the offer of a prize from the French government for the best preservation method to feed far-off troops, Appert perfected the process in 1810.
Werner Arber, a microbiologist, discovered restriction enzymes which break DNA molecules into smaller pieces. Restriction enzymes are now a workhorse tool of molecular