5 Latino Scientists Who Have Exceptionally Contributed to Science

5 Latino Scientists Who Have Exceptionally Contributed to Science

These Hispanic scientists contributed to the world’s transformation despite prejudice and mockery.

Though we might not always acknowledge it, scientific advancements have improved our lives. Science continues to influence our world, creating new technology and medications. The things that we now take for granted may once have been the life’s work of a scientist who overcame obstacles because of their gender or race. But they persisted, and the world benefited from their contributions. Here are five outstanding Hispanic scientists who have made exceptional contributions to science in honour of Hispanic Heritage Month.

1. César Milstein

The parents of César Milstein, born in Argentina in 1927, pushed him and his siblings to prioritise their education. Milstein joined the National Institute of Microbiology in Buenos Aires in 1957 after earning his Ph. D. from the University of Buenos Aires. Later, in 1960, he received a second PhD from Cambridge University and joined the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Antibodies were Milstein’s primary area of study. In 1984, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Georges Köhler and Niels K. Jerne for their contributions to creating monoclonal antibodies. An almost infinite number of desired antibodies can be produced with monoclonal antibodies. They frequently detect viruses and bacterial illnesses, blood cell typing, and pregnancy tests.

2. Ynés Mexía

Mexican-American botanist Ynés Enriquetta Julietta Mexa was born in 1870. Despite starting her profession as a botanist at 55, she has made valuable contributions to the field. Mecca was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She later relocated to Mexico to manage her father’s ranch. Her first husband passed away shortly after their wedding, and after her second husband ran the farm into the ground, she filed for divorce. Mexa relocated to San Francisco for treatment due to her deteriorating mental condition. Before joining the environmental movement, she worked there as a social worker.

She toured all of California while travelling with the Sierra Club and the Save the Redwoods League. Her involvement with these groups encouraged her to pursue botany, and in 1921, when she was 51 years old, she enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. She made her first trip to collect plants in 1925, visiting Mexico, where she gathered more than 1500 plant species. Mexa spent her 13-year career travelling throughout North and South America collecting samples as the first Mexican-American female botanist. In Denali National Park, she was even the first botanist to gather pieces.

She broke gender stereotypes by travelling alone and spending nights outside, which women didn’t do very often at the time, and speaking out for Indigenous and women’s rights. Mexa amassed approximately 150,000 specimens by the conclusion of her career, had a new genus named after her that contained 50 species, and contributed to the discovery and classification of over 500 plants.

3. Helen Rodríguez Trías

Tras, born in 1929 to immigrant parents, experienced hardship at a young age. She could not enrol in the more difficult classes at her New York school despite her proficiency in English and strong academic performance. She eventually proceeded to the advanced levels after one of her lecturers became aware of her academic success. This encouraged Tras to pursue a career in medicine. She received her medical training in San Juan, and after completing her residency there, she started working as an instructor at the medical school. She established Puerto Rico’s first infant health clinic while living in San Juan, and within three years, infant mortality had decreased by 50%.

As the chief of the paediatrics division at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, Trás moved back to New York in 1970. She ran into more problems there. Most of the patients in the hospital were Black and Hispanic, and it also required immediate repair. As a result, activist groups like the Young Lords took over hospitals and pressed for better services and care for their constituents. Trás understood how a health decline resulted from inequality and poverty and contributed this knowledge to the 1970s women’s health movement.

Women of colour were occasionally subjected to sterilization methods, while white women struggled to access safe birth control and abortion procedures. She established the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse and the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse. She participated in the founding of the American Public Health Association’s Hispanic and Women’s Caucuses (APHA). She was an advocate for women and children with HIV as a staff member at the AIDS Institute in New York in the 1980s. She was also elected the first Latina American Public Health Association president in 1993.

She received the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001 for her services to medicine and human welfare.

4. Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski

Scientist Sabrina Gonzales Pasterski was born in 1993 and is of Cuban and American descent. She has various scientific accomplishments under her belt at 30, including becoming the youngest to design and fly an aircraft. Pasterski started constructing the kit aeroplane N5886Q in 2006 when she was just 12 years old, and in 2009, when she was 16, she made her first flight in it.

Pasterski participated in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment while she was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her undergrad. The investigation sought the Higgs boson, dark matter particles, and additional dimensions.

While pursuing a doctorate at Harvard, she wrote a study on electromagnetic memory in 2015 that was later acknowledged in a publication by Stephen Hawking in 2016.

5. Carlos Juan Finlay

Cuban epidemiologist Carlos Juan Finlay, born in 1833, specialised in studying yellow fever. Finlay, a Philadelphia native and Jefferson Medical College alum, was chosen by the Cuban government to work with the North American commission to investigate the origins of yellow fever. Later, he represented Cuba at the Washington, D.C., International Sanitary Conference.

He presented at the conference his theory that mosquitoes spread yellow fever from sick people to healthy ones. But for nearly 20 years, the medical profession primarily disregarded and mocked him. But this didn’t stop him from attempting to support his theory.

When Walter Reed of the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Board visited Cuba in 1900, Finlay urged him to investigate mosquitos as a potential source of the disease. Reed initially wasn’t persuaded, but after researching the possibility of yellow fever transmission by a mosquito, he concluded that Finlay was correct. This discovery aided in the eradication of yellow fever in Cuba and Panama. After Finlay passed away in 1915, the Finlay Institute for Investigations in Tropical Medicine was named in his honour. Finlay had eventually been appointed chief sanitary officer in 1902.


These are the only few scientists that have made such remarkable contributions to science. 

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