The 1980s Science and Technology: Headline Makers
The 1980s Science and Technology: Headline MakersLuis W. Alvarez
Guion S. Bluford Jr.
Luis W. Alvarez (1911–1988) In 1980, physicist Luis W. Alvarez and his son Walter proposed the theory that dinosaurs became extinct after a giant asteroid struck Earth about sixty-five million years ago. The dusty cloud thrown into the atmosphere by such a collision covered the planet for an extended period of time, blocked out sunlight, and caused the widespread death of plant life on Earth. This, in turn, brought about the extinction of plant-eating dinosaurs. While the theory has been accepted by many scientists it is still the subject of considerable debate.
Guion S. Bluford Jr. (1942–) Guion S. Bluford Jr. became the first African American to experience space flight when he served as mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger, which launched on August 30, 1983. While in space, Bluford headed numerous scientific and technical experiments, including the release of a communications and weather satellite, tests on the shuttle's mechanical arm, and various medical experiments. He flew one more shuttle mission in the decade and two in the next before retiring from NASA.
Barbara McClintock (1902–1992) Barbara McClintock was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology in 1983, the first woman to be the sole recipient of a Nobel Prize in that field. In the early 1950s, while studying the structure of Indian corn, she found that genetic material could shift unpredictably from one generation to the next. McClintock's discovery of mobile or "jumping" genes went against established theories of genetics. However, it took the scientific community more than thirty years to acknowledge she had made one of the most fundamental discoveries in the field of genetics in the twentieth century.
Sally Ride (1951–) Sally Ride became the first American woman in space when she was chosen as one of the crew members of the space shuttle Challenger. The seventh space shuttle fight, it lifted off on June 18, 1983. While in space, Ride helped deploy two communications satellites, conducted trials of the mechanical arm she had helped design, and performed and monitored about forty scientific experiments. She flew on her second, and final, shuttle mission the following year. In 1986, she served as the only astronaut on the presidential commission investigating the Challenger explosion.