Judith Arlene Resnik (1949-1986) was born in Akron, Ohio to Jewish-Russian immigrants from Ukraine. As a child she went to Hebrew school, then attended a public high school where she was the only female student to achieve a perfect SAT score. She went on to become an electrical engineer, eventually earning a Ph.D in the subject. Resnik first worked as a circuitry designer for tech giant RCA, as well as serving as a biomedical engineer for the National Institutes of Health (at the Laboratory of Neurophysiology) and a systems engineer for Xerox. In 1978 she joined NASA, going on her first space flight in 1984 on the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Discovery. That made her the first American Jew in space and the first Jewish woman in space. She quickly became beloved by the public for her on-board humour and space acrobatics. Resnik went on her second tour in space with the Challenger in January of 1986. Sadly, the mission ended quickly when the space shuttle tragically exploded in Earth’s atmosphere, killing all 7 crew members. It took nearly 6 weeks to find the crew compartment at the bottom of the ocean floor. Resnik’s body was among those that were identifiable. She was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. That same year, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established the Judith A. Resnik Award for outstanding contributions to space engineering. The moon’s Resnik Lunar Crater is named in her honour.
Words of the Week
A man without a woman is not a man. – Rabbi Elazar (Talmud, Yevamot 63a)
Stanford Ovshinsky (b. 1922) was born in Akron, Ohio to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Belarus. Instilled by his father with a sense of working for the good of the public, Ovshinsky went on to invent over 400 things for which he holds patents. He first created a special high-speed lathe that was used in the war effort to rapidly produce artillery shells. In 1951 he moved to Detroit to work in the auto industry and invented, among many other things, electric power steering. Besides mechanical engineering, Ovshinsky studied a diverse array of other subjects and one of his main focuses was neurophysiology. He was able to fashion a model nerve cell that was hailed as a breakthrough in nanotechnology. He also discovered what became known as the “Ovshinsky Effect”, which led to the development of rewritable CDs, DVDs and flat-screen displays. Ovshinsky is most famous for his work in batteries and solar cells. He invented the rechargeable (Ni-H) battery, and shattered all expectations by creating a 30 megawatt solar generator at a time when even 5 megawatts was a dream. Although he is nearly 90 years old, Ovshinsky continues his work, mostly on photovoltaic cells, with the express goal of making fossil fuels obsolete. He has been compared to both Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, and is often called the “world’s most important energy visionary.” TIME Magazine named him “Hero of the Planet” in 1999. He has won countless awards and published over 300 scientific papers. His latest thin-film PV invention may soon be powering all of your devices, but you’ve probably never heard of him (until now). His humility can be summed up in his own words: “I’m not going to tell you about it, I’m just going to show you”.
Update: Sadly, Stanford Ovshinsky passed away on October 17, 2012 – five months after this piece was originally posted.
Words of the Week
Study the past if you want to define the future. – Confucius