Vera Kistiakowsky, expert in experimental particle physics and observational astrophysics

Retrato de Vera Kistiakowsky

September 9, 1928, in Princeton, New Jersey – December 11, 2021, in Providence, Rhode Island

She is an American physicist and the daughter of physicist-chemist George Kistiakowsky, who was a great influence on her since as director of the Los Alamos Explosives Division during the Manhattan Project he arranged for her to spend summers at Los Alamos with him. She later became a science adviser to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1948, she earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Mount Holyoke College, and in 1951, she married Gerhard Fischer, a fellow student at the University of California, and had two children.

In 1952, she did her PhD with Glenn Seaborg in Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley and did a postdoctoral fellowship working in experimental nuclear physics with Luis Walter Álvarez and worked at Columbia University from 1954 to 1959, first as a researcher in chemistry and later as a research associate in the physics department helping Chien-Shiung Wu (American physicist expert in radioactivity).

Vera Kistiakowsky en MIT

Between 1963 and 1971, she worked as a professor and researcher in the physics department and the Laboratory of Nuclear Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), thus becoming the first woman to do so.

Around that time, she also began advocating for the advancement of women in science and becoming a great activist for this cause.

In 1969, she founded the Boston Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), forerunner of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), and served as chair or member of numerous MIT committees and groups related to MIT women.

In 1971, she founded the American Physical Society (APS) Committee on the Status of Women in Physics by obtaining a $10,000 grant from the Sloan Foundation to produce a report on the conditions of employment for women. She also created a list of female physicists, "to counter claims that there were no qualified people to hire." In 1972, this detailed report convinced the APS to permanently establish the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics which is still active today.

Other committees she has been involved with are the National Research Council Conference on Women in Science and Engineering and the Association for Women in Science.

Throughout his life, his professional career has moved from the field of nuclear chemistry to nuclear physics, then to particle physics, and finally to astrophysics.

Access to the best

educational
resources

on Energy and Environment
Go to resources