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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Natural Sciences


  • The papers of Vera C. Rubin (1928-2016) (86,000 items; 1781-2014 ;bulk 1945-2010) relate to her career as an astronomer specializing in the movement of galaxies and in the existence of dark matter in the universe as well as her involvement in professional organizations and her efforts to promote women in science.
  • Barbara Gamow (1905-1976) acted as editor and translator for her husband George Gamow, a physicist and astronomer. Her papers, which form a part of George Gamow and Barbara Gamow papers (8,000 items; 1915-1975; bulk 1950-1975) consist primarily of personal and literary correspondence.
  • Noted nineteenth-century astronomer and educator Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) is represented in the division’s collections by a undated note she composed while teaching at Vassar College as well as routine correspondence found in the records of the U.S. Naval Observatory (8,000 items; 1830-1900).
John Vachon, 1914-1975, photographer. Miss Moore, assistant to Doctor Cox, at microscope. 1942. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.


  • Elizabeth H. Blackburn (1948- ) won (with two other scientists) the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her work discovering the molecular nature of telomeres, the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that protect genetic information, and co-discovering the enzyme telomerase, which replenishes the telomeres. Besides documenting her scientific career in molecular biology, her papers (150,000 items; 1932-2015; bulk 1978-2012) demonstrate the intersection of science and public policy, especially as pertains to stem cell research, on which she clashed publicly with the George W. Bush administration, leading to her dismissal from the President’s Council on Bioethics in 2004.
  • The papers of Rita R. Colwell (1934- ) (149,000 items and 11,000 digital files; 1931-2004; bulk 1980-2004) document Colwell’s career as an environmental microbiologist, scientific administrator, and former Director of National Science Foundation.
  • The papers of geneticist and molecular biologist Nina V. Fedoroff (1942- ) (24,150 items and 24, 247 digital files; 1914-2008; bulk 1977-2008) demonstrate her contributions to the development of modern techniques to study and modify plants.
  • Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) was a biologist, evolutionary theorist, author, and educator. Her papers (12,000 items and 115 digital files; 1965-2013; bulk 2000-2010) primarily document her pursuits as a science author and include research materials and drafts of articles and books, as well as materials for university courses and research grants.


  • The papers of Maxine Singer (1931- ) (23,600 items; 1950-2004; bulk 1970-1995) document Singer's career as a biochemist specializing in the field of DNA and RNA research, as an advisor and spokesperson on science policy issues, and as president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
  • The division also has a 1921 deed between the Marie Curie Radium Fund of New York City and the chemist Marie Curie, presenting Curie with one gram of radium for use in her research. See this article External in Smithsonian Magazine for more information.


  • Miriam K. Young (1921-2011) served with the U.S. Army Women's Army Corps assigned to the Manhattan Project's Los Alamos facility where she worked with the Experimental Physics Group. Her papers (50 items; 1907-2011) pertain to her work as a laboratory technician and include a plastic-encased piece of trinitite, melted rock from the Trinity Site, N.M., where the atomic bomb was first tested.
  • The Merle Antony Tuve papers (152,000 items; 1901-1982; bulk 1941-1966) contain the notebooks of his spouse, Winifred Gray Whitman, a physician who collaborated with Tuve, a physicist, from 1928 to 1932 in analyzing the effects of high frequency radiation on animals. The notebooks cover the period 1930-1931 and record experiments relating to this subject, containing observations in Tuve’s handwriting and notations by Whitman.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.