Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Missouri History in Science and Technology: Notables-Last Name A-G

Photo gallery

Dr. William Beaumont

Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori

Stephen Chu, Nobel Prize winner and former U.S. Secretary of Energy

James Buchanan Eads, the "Napoleon of Engineers" and member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Edwin Hubble
Photo: New York Times Co./Getty Images

Curtis Fletcher Marbut

Andrew Taylor (A.T.) Still, founder of osteopathic medicine

MU Professor George P. Smith, Nobel Prize co-winner for Chemistry, 2018

William Beaumont (1785-1853)

Dr. William Beaumont earned the moniker "father of gastric physiology" as a result of his observations on digestion and the gastric tract.

Beaumont was born in Connecticut. He became a physician in 1812 and after a brief stint in private practice, he returned to the military.

In 1822, he treated Alexis St. Martin for a potentially fatal shotgun wound to the stomach. St. Martin survived but was left with a fistula (hole) that never fully healed. He was unable to return to the job where he was injured, and was subsequently hired by Dr. Beaumont as a handyman.

In 1825, Beaumont began a series of experiments on St. Martin (which now might be considered unethical). Using a string, Beaumont inserted pieces of food into the fistual and removed them, in order to observe the digestive process. He also removed samples of stomach acids to use in other experiments. Beaumont discovered that the acids were primarily responsible for breaking down food for the digestive process, and not the movement of the stomach muscles as previously believed. 

In 1828 Beaumont was transferred from Green Bay (WI) to St. Louis. In 1838 he published Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion. His original correspondence and notebooks are held by the Becker Medical Library at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (MO).

Stephen Chu (1948--)

Stephen Chu was born in St. Louis, MO. A self-admitted mediocre student (compared to his siblings), Chu became inspired by The Feynman Lectures in Physics while he was a freshman at the University of Rochester (NY).  He earned degrees in mathematics (1970, Rochester) and physics (1970, Rochester and 1976, University of California-Berkeley). In the fall of 1978 Chu went to work at Bell Labs, where his Nobel Prize-winning research on laser cooling began. In 1997, he shared the Nobel for Physics with two other researchers "for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light." 

Chu was appointed director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 2009, he was unanimously confirmed to serve as the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy; he is the first person appointed to the U.S. Cabinet after winning a Nobel Prize. Chu was a supporter of addressing climate change, supported stricter standards to curb air pollution, and was responsible for initiatives including the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which uses a competitive selection process to assist and fund researchers to develop new technologies to generate, store and use energy.

He resigned his post in 2013; since then he has continued to advocate for solutions to address the climate crisis, and serves on the board of a private research company working on biomass as an alternative energy source.  He is currently Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular & Cellular Physiology in at the Stanford University Medical School (CA).

Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori (1896-1957)

Gerty Cori was only the third woman to win a Nobel Prize in science; she was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1947). She and her husband, Carl, received the prize for "their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen". They shared the award with Argentinian Bernardo Houssay, the first Latin American scientist to win a Nobel.

Gerty and Carl emigrated to the United States in 1922, after they both graduated from medical school in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  They found research positions at the State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases in Buffalo, NY. In 1931, the couple went to the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis (MO), where they established a laboratory that became a major center for biochemical research. Gerty was initially offered a lower position and at only 10% of the salary that Carl was making - even though they were in the same department - in deference to advancing his career. It was only after the couple won the Nobel Prize that Gerty was appointed professor, in the University's biochemistry department. 

In addition to her professional accolades, Gerty is one of only 32 women who've had a crater on the Moon named after her.

James Eads (1820-1887)

James Buchanan Eads was born in Indiana in 1820, and was named for his mother's cousin, future U.S. President James Buchanan. His family moved to St. Louis in 1833, but upon arrival immediately lost all of their belongings when their steamboat caught fire. Young James had to find work to help support the family.

Eads became a self-educated inventor and engineer; he had no formal training. At 22, he invented a "diving bell" to assist in his riverbed salvaging business. He made a fortune - then lost it - then made another, and retired at age 37 with over $500,000.

In 1861, Eads proposed a fleet of armored steamships to assist the Union Army in the Civil War. He won the government-issued contract and built the ships in record time; the first, named the St. Louis, was completed in five weeks. The ships played a pivotal role in the Union's first major victories at Forts Donelson and Henry (TN) in 1862.

Eads had no bridge-building experience before he designed and built the St. Louis Bridge, also called the Eads Bridge. His selection of steel as construction material allowed him to build a bridge that was stronger than those built of the commonly-used wrought iron. The $10 million bridge was completed in 7 years (1867-1874), and still stands today. It's designated as a National Historic Landmark (1964) and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark (1971) in recognition of its ground-breaking design and construction methods. 

Eads is a 2022 National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee