Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes in the history of STEM and health sciences

SAA's Science, Technology and Health Care Section has initiated this site to highlight underrepresented and diverse persons and groups documented in archival collections on the history of STEM and health sciences. The hope is that the shared information will be a useful resource for researchers. 

All archival repositories are encouraged to contribute information to this website. Please submit entries to STHC web liaison. In addition to brief biographies and links to collection information and/or finding aids, images are welcomed for this webpage.

LIST OF INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS, area(s) of expertise

 

Annie Montague Alexander (1867-1950) founded the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) and the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley. She and her partner of 42 years, Louise Kellogg lived an amazing life, collecting specimens all over the world. Alexander's field notes from Alaska in 1907 describe a very rough terrain and the other expedition members had a tough time keeping up with her. Alexander hand-picked the MVZ's first director, Joseph Grinnell and all major decisions were ran by her. Her papers are unprocessed. Contact the MVZ for more information. 

"On Her Own Terms: Annie Montague Alexander and the Rise of Science in the American West" by Barbara R. Stein was published by the University of California Press in 2001.

–Submitted by Christina V. Fidler, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, August 2016

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Born in Missouri, Amelia Sanborn Allen (1874- 1945) was a pioneering woman in the ornithological field and a lifelong lover of birds, particularly those of California and Berkeley. Allen’s field notes are held by the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley and a there is a blog story about the collection.

–Submitted by Christina V. Fidler, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, August 2016

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Minoru Amemiya (1922 - 2000) was born in San Francisco and attended the University of California, Berkeley for his B.S. in Plant Science. Shortly after graduation he was interred at the Topaz Japanese-American Relocation Camp in Utah. After release, he served in the army prior to continuing his studies at Ohio State University where he earned his M.S. and Ph.D degrees in Soil Physics. Before coming to Iowa State University as a research soil scientist (USDA) and Associate Professor (named Professor in 1968), Dr. Amemiya worked at the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station in Grand Junction. He is most known for his work with soil conservation, particularly his advocacy of reduced tillage as a way to lessen soil erosion.

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Grace Amemiya was born in Vacaville, California in 1920. Her nursing studies at the University of California, San Francisco, were cut short by WWII and she was interred in the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. After release, she tried to continue her studies but was repeatedly denied because of her ethnicity. She was finally accepted at St Mary's School of Nursing in Rochester, Minnesota before becoming a U.S. Cadet Nurse. She was the second Japanese American nurse in the country to complete the Cadet program. She is a frequent speaker on the Amemiyas' experiences in the internment camps and was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame this year.

The Grace and Minoru Amemiya papers are held at the Special Collections and University Archives at Iowa State University. In addition to documentation of Minoru's soil conservation work, the collection materials include the film "The Japanese-American Internment, Our Story."

-Submitted by Kimberly Anderson, Special Collections, Iowa State University, November 2016

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Geneva G. Belford (1932-2014) was a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the Philadelphia area, Geneva G. Belford earned a bachelor of science in Mathematics in 1952 from the University of Pennsylvania, a master of science (also in math) from the University of California, Berkeley in 1954, and a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1960. During her time as a graduate student and recent post-grad, Belford worked as a research assistant at the Digital Computer Laboratory at the U of I and as a research associate in the Department of Chemistry. In 1964, Belford became an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and in 1972 as a research assistant professor at the Center for Advanced Computation - a center which connected faculty in the physical, life, and social sciences with computational resources on campus (including in particular the ILLIAC computer, one of the first automatic electronic digital computers owned by a university). Following these positions, she was appointed an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in 1977 and became a full professor in 1982. With an interdisciplinary background, Belford's research focused on database and distributed systems. She also held several administrative positions, including as associate dean of the Graduate College and as the Computer Science Graduate Program Coordinator. By the time she retired in 2000, Belford had served as an advisor to nearly 150 students. She received a Distinguished Service Award in 2012. The Geneva G. Belford papers are at the University of Illinois Archives.

-Submitted by Bethany G. Anderson, University Archives University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 2016

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Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to earn an M.D. from an accredited medical school.  Born in Bristol, England in 1821, Dr. Blackwell graduated at the top of her class at Geneva College of Medicine in 1849.  But criticism of her and the medical school was so robust that Dr. Blackwell decided to pursue her postgraduate education in Europe, where she decided to train as a surgeon.  Dr. Blackwell returned to the United States in 1851, and decided to open The New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857.  This institution cared for pediatric and obstetrical and gynecological patients, while also running a medical school for women.  Dr. Blackwell eventually returned to the U.K., where she was the first woman to be entered in the British Medical Register, and where she continued to practice medicine and to write prolifically until her retirement in 1907.  She died on May 31, 1910 and is buried in Kilmun, Scotland.

-Submitted by Cara Howe, and Nicole Topich.  Archives and Special Collections, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

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Bertlyn Bosley (1908-1988) was a researcher, author, educator, and administrator in the field of public health nutrition, whose papers are held at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Bosley, a native of West Virginia, worked for many years to develop nutritional programs for the state of North Carolina, the United States Public Health Service, and the World Health Organization.

Dr. Bosley was born March 11, 1908 in Mannington, West Virginia and studied at Western College, Simmons College, and Columbia University, where she earned her PhD in 1944. After finishing her studies, Dr. Bosley spent many years in the public sector, conducting research, developing nutrition surveys, and implementing nutritional education programs for government agencies. As the principal nutritionist for the North Carolina State Board of Health from 1944-1947-and chief of its Nutrition Section from 1948-1956--she planned, organized and developed the first public health nutrition program for the state of North Carolina. Dr. Bosley subsequently served as the chief of the Nutrition and Dietetics Branch of the Division of Indian Health (1956-1964) and as a regional nutrition advisor for the Pan American Health Organization (1964-1973). After her retirement in 1973, she continued to serve as a nutritional consultant until her final retirement in 1979.

As a pioneer in the field of public health nutrition, Dr. Bosley was often able to establish new programs without hindrance of pre-established policies and processes, and she worked directly with the populations she served, often traveling to remote areas of North Carolina, the American West, and Latin America to educate and train citizens and health workers alike. Dr. Bosley's active role in professional societies, as well as her impressive scholarly and technical output, left a powerful legacy to the field of public health.

The Bertlyn Bosley papers are held at the Eskind Biomedical Library Special Collections at Vanderbilt University.

-Submitted by Christopher Ryland, Eskind Biomedical Library, Vanderbilt University, October 2016

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Thomas N. Burbridge (1921-1972) was an African-American scientist, physician, and civil rights activist. Dr. Burbridge devoted his life to social justice and his work continues to impact University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the larger San Francisco community. 

The Thomas Nathaniel Burbridge papers are held at the UCSF and there is a a blog story about the collection.

-Submitted by Kelsi Evans, Archives and Special Collections, University of California, San Francisco Library, October 2016

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Gertrude Mary Cox (1900-1978) served as head of the Statistics Department at North Carolina State University (NCSU) from 1940 to 1949, and she was the first women to lead a department at there. She played an important role in founding the Research Triangle Institute in 1959 and held the position of Director, Statistics Research Division at the Institute from 1959 until 1964. In 1949 Cox became the first woman elected into the International Statistical Institute. In 1956 she was elected President of the American Statistical Association, and in 1975 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.  Cox Hall and the Cox Fellowship at NCSU were named in her honor.  The Gertrude Mary Cox Papers are held by the Special Collections Research Center at the NCSU Libraries, which has also digitized several photographs of Cox.

-Submitted by Todd Kosmerick. Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libaries. September 2018.

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Sarah Loguen Fraser (1850-1933) was born in Syracuse, NY and graduated from the Syracuse University College of Medicine in 1876.  This accomplishment made her the fourth African American woman in the United States to earn a formal medical degree.  Her medical practice focused heavily on pediatric and obstetric care.  Dr. Lougen Fraser moved to the Dominican Republic with her husband Dr. Charles Fraser, a pharmacist and plantation owner.  She became the country's first woman doctor, and was able to establish a free clinic there, with the funds from her husband's successful business.  After the death of her husband in 1894, Dr. Loguen Fraser lived in Washington D.C., France and returned to Syracuse for a short time.  She was honored by Howard University on the 50th anniversary of her medical school graduation and died of kidney disease at her daughter's home in 1933.

-Submitted by Cara Howe, and Nicole Topich.  Archives and Special Collections, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

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Charlotte Friend (1921-1987) was a noted microbiologist who made important contributions to the study of cancer. In 1956, Dr. Friend published her work on what quickly became known as the Friend leukemia virus. In 1966, Dr. Friend left Sloan-Kettering to become the first Director of the Center for Experimental Cell Biology and the first woman Professor at the still developing Mount Sinai School of Medicine. In 1971 she published another landmark paper, this one titled "Hemoglobin synthesis in murine virus-induced leukemic cells in vitro:  Stimulation of erythroid differentiation by dimethyl sulfoxide." The co-authors were William Scher, J.G. Holland and Toru Sato. This paper described research on leukemia cells that had been made to differentiate, or take another step in the maturation process to become erythroid cells, thus stopping their cancer-like multiplication. Dr. Friend was always very active in various associations and in outside professional activities such as grant reviewing and serving on editorial boards and advisory councils. In the 1970s, when many associations 'discovered' their female members, Dr. Friend was asked to assume leadership roles in several organizations. In all, she published 163 papers, 70 of which she wrote by herself or with one other author.  Although diagnosed with lymphoma on her 60th birthday in 1981, she told few of her illness. She continued to go about her work with all the energy she had, writing grants, serving on committees, and working in the lab.  

-Submitted by Barbara J. Niss, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, August 2016

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Pilar Angeles Garcia was born November 4, 1926 in Manila. She graduated from the University of the Philippines at Manila, in 1949, with a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy. Garcia received the prestigious Barbour Scholarship, which sent her to the University of Michigan, where she earned her Master of Science (M.S.) degree in botany. Garcia then relocated to lowa State University (ISU), where she completed her studies in nutrition and worked as a graduate assistant. After Garcia earned her M .S. and Ph.D., she worked as a research associate in the Department of Food and Nutrition at ISU until she was appointed faculty in 1961. Garcia researched and taught courses about the effects of nutrition on people, primarily women, throughout her academic career. In 1970, she earned a faculty citation from the lowa State Alumni Association. In 1986, Garcia was awarded the Amoco Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Pilar Garcia retired in 1991.

Pilar GarciaFinding aid for her collection at Iowa State University Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA): http://findingaids.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/rgrp/12-6-53.html

Recent SCUA blog posts about Pilar Garcia:

https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/womens-history-month-pilar-angeles-garcia/

https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/womens-history-month-pilar-angeles-garcia/

–Submitted by Rachel Seale, Iowa State University, May 2018

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Leslie Kohman completed her M.D. at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine (Hershey) in 1976.  Dr. Kohman is a thoracic surgeon specializing in thoracic oncology and became a faculty member in the Department of Surgery at Upstate in 1985.  She founded the Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery (now Women in Thoracic Surgery) group in 1987, which is dedicated to supporting the careers of women entering the field.  She was honored with the Nina Starr Braunwald Award in recognition of her work to advance women in surgery by the Association of Women Surgeons in 1997.

-Submitted by Cara Howe, and Nicole Topich.  Archives and Special Collections, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

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Samuel Kountz (1930-1981) was a pioneering African-American kidney transplant surgeon. In 1967, Kountz joined the UCSF faculty and became head of the Kidney Transplant Service. During his time at UCSF, Kountz performed numerous kidney transplant surgeries, discovered more effective drug techniques, and advocated for increased organ donations and funding for transplant surgery research. Additionally, Kountz and his colleague, Dr. Folkert Belzer, developed a perfusion preservation machine that allowed organs to remain viable for much longer than previously possible, a major development in the field. Under Kountz’s leadership, the Kidney Transplant Service at UCSF became one of the most respected programs in the world.

Kountz worked to increase diversity on campus through minority student recruitment and advocated for better care regardless of class or race. He was invested in what he called “human aspects” of transplant surgery, including documenting patients’ lives before and after surgery.

Learn more about Kountz on our blog.

-Submitted by Kelsi Evans, UCSF Archives and Special Collections, UCSF Library, March 2017

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Sister Mary Therese Langerbeck, BVM, (1902-1993) was reportedly “the world’s first Sister-Doctor of Astrophysics.” She taught physics at Mundelein College in Chicago from 1936-1970.

Sister Langerbeck earned her B.A. in botany and education from Northwestern University in 1924. The following year, she joined the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) and took the name Mary Therese. She then went on to earn two M.A.s (physics and astronomy) from the University of Michigan and completed her Ph.D. in astrophysics from Georgetown University in 1948, one of the first women to do so. In 1936, she began teaching physics at Mundelein College, where she would spend most of her professional life. She immediately set to work developing the physics department at Mundelein, which had then been open only six years. In 1938, she installed a Foucault pendulum at Mundelein, which was used by visiting researchers until its replacement by a larger version at the Museum of Science and Industry in 1958.

Sister Langerbeck excelled at teaching and providing her students with exciting opportunities, including the use of a telescope at Mundelein’s observatory starting in 1959. She won numerous fellowships and grants, including one from the Atomic Energy Commission to “initiate radioisotope research” at Mundelein and another from the National Science Foundation that resulted in two summers of research at the Max Planck Institute of Astrophysics in Munich, Germany. Sister Langerbeck was acutely aware of the need for women in STEM, presenting at Harvard University in 1953 about the United States’ need for female scientists. After a more than forty-year-long career, Sister Langerbeck retired from teaching in 1977. She died in Dubuque, Iowa, on March 23, 1993.

More information about Sister Langerbeck and the Mundelein College Physics Department can be found at the Women and Leadership Archives.

-Submitted byHannah Overstreet, Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago, December 2018.

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Biochemist Choh Hao Li was among the first to synthesize the human growth hormone and later discovered beta-endorphin. Born in 1913 in Guangzhou, China, Li graduated from the University of Nanjing before moving to the US to attend graduate school at UC Berkeley in 1935. Upon earning his Ph. D. in Organic Chemistry in 1938, Li began working on the UC Berkeley campus at the Institute of Experimental Biology with Herbert McLean Evans. In 1950, Li became the first director of the newly created Hormone Research Laboratory. He moved with the laboratory to UCSF in 1967, where Li worked until his retirement in 1983. As an emeritus professor at UCSF, Li then established the Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology, where he remained director until his death in 1987. The Choh Hao Li papers are at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); the university also published a recent story about the collection.

-Submitted by David Uhlich, UCSF Archives and Special Collections, University of California, San Francisco, September 2016

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Patricia Joy Numann is a 1965 graduate of Upstate Medical University and has been a faculty member in the Department of Surgery since 1970.  Dr. Numann's clinical interests have focused on breast disease, thyroid and parathyroid diseases, and her efforts led to the Patricia J. Numann Breast and Endocrine Surgery Center at Upstate in 2007.  Dr. Numann became a fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1974, and was the second woman elected to serve as President of the ACS in 2011.  Dr. Numann was also the first woman to serve as chair of the American Board of Surgery (1994-2002) and was a founding member and President (1985-1986) of the Association for Surgical Education.  She also founded the Association of Women Surgeons (1982); that organization subsequently made her President from 1986-1987, and awarded her the Nina Starr Braunwald Award in 1998.  Dr. Numann has been the recipient of numerous other honors and awards including the New York State Woman of Distinction in Medicine Award (1994), the Susan G. Kohman Breast Cancer Foundation Distinquished Service Award (2001), and the Humanitarian of the Year award by the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of CNY, Inc in 2003.

-Submitted by Cara Howe, and Nicole Topich.  Archives and Special Collections, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

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Irene Pope graduated from the UCSF School of Nursing in 1947 and was appointed director of nursing at San Francisco General Hospital in 1960. She inherited an institution with constant nursing turnover and little to no high-level coordination of nursing activity. Pope transformed the nursing service into a functional, united group while also improving working conditions for nurses. In 1966, Pope helped lead a "sickout" of SFGH nurses in demand of higher wages. All staff nurses called in sick while Pope and other head nurses kept the hospital going. The sickout lasted three days and resulted in a 40 percent pay raise for the nursing staff. 

Learn more about Pope on our blog.

-Submitted by Kelsi Evans, UCSF Archives and Special Collections, UCSF Library, March 2017

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Horticulturist James Chester Raulston (1940-1996) was a professor at North Carolina State University (NCSU) from 1975 to 1996. He also created the NCSU Arboretum, later renamed the 'JC Raulston Arboretum' in his honor.

Always passionate about horticulture, especially rare, ornamental plants, Raulston cultivated professional relationships with nurserymen, and he was an active member of many garden and horticultural societies. A gay man, Raulston organized the Lavandula Society (later renamed Lavandula and Labiatae Society), an informal network of gay and lesbian professionals in botany, horticulture, and related fields. More information about Raulston and his collection of personal papers can be found in our online collection guide. In the fall of 2016, the NCSU Libraries held an exhibit on Raulston's life and career.

-Submitted by Todd Kosmerick, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University, September 2016

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David Rosenstein was a dentist at OHSU who relished in serving the underserved communities of Portland. He advocated for greater diversity in the School of Dentistry and, in the 80s, as AIDS ravaged throughout the country, he helped run a dental clinic that provided care to HIV+ individuals when most other providers refused to serve them. Inspired by our oral history interview with Dr. Rosenstein, student assistant Rachel Blume has penned a two-part blog post that looks at the work Rosenstein did to support the underserved residents of our city and larger community. Links to blog, part one; blog, part two; oral history interview

-Submitted by: Steve Duckworth, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University, February 2017

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Charles Ross (1930-1989) received his doctorate from the University of Michigan.  He became a faculty member in the Department of Cardiology at Upstate in 1966 and was the first African American Dean of the College of Graduate Studies in 1982.  Dr. Ross's major research interests were renal transport mechanisms, renal pharmacology and physiology, membrane properties, and nephrotoxicities.  His project "Renal Transport for Organ Compounds" was continuously funded by the National Institute of Health for 32 years.  The Dr. Charles Ross Research Fellowship and the annual Charles R. Ross Ph.D. Research Poster Session were established at Upstate in his honor.

-Submitted by Cara Howe, and Nicole Topich.  Archives and Special Collections, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

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Born in 1871, Florence Rena Sabin made a number significant firsts in the biological sciences. She was the first woman to graduate from the Johns Hopkins medical school in 1900 and later became the first woman promoted to full professor at Johns Hopkins. In 1925 she became the first female faculty member at the Rockefeller Institute and also became the first woman admitted to the National Academy of Sciences. Her papers mostly pertain to her medical research in anatomy, embryology, tuberculosis, and cancer. There is also ample documentation of her activities with a number of professional and educational organizations. The Florence Rena Sabin papers are held at The American Philosophical Society.

-Submitted by Andrew Lippert, American Philosophical Society, August 2016

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Charlotte Cramer Sachs’s inventive and entrepreneurial life spanned nearly the entire twentieth century, two continents, and involved the world of commerce, invention, music, poetry, and art.  She was a woman who overcame the burdens of divorce and single parenthood, the loss of her homeland (and family home), the death of her only child, the special difficulties of being an independent inventor during a period of strong corporate research and development, and the challenges of being a woman launching a new business in a new country during the postwar period. Her father’s business, H.S. Cramer & Co., enabled an easier immigration path for his family and provided a foundation for Charlotte to build a successful company that allowed her to express her creative talents in many forms. 

 

Link to finding aid: Guide to the Charlotte Cramer Sachs Papers

 

-Submitted by  Alison Oswald, Smithsonian Institution 

 

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Elizabeth Neige Todhunter (1901-1991) was a nutritionist, teacher, author, and lecturer. Her biographical and historical writings greatly promoted interest in the history of nutrition science. Dr. Todhunter received her M.Sc. from the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1925 her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1933. She was an Associate Professor of Home Economics at the State College of Washington from 1934-1941. In 1941, Dr. Todhunter Director of the Research Laboratory of Human Nutrition at the University of Alabama, and from 1953-1966 she served as Professor and Dean of the Department of Food and Nutrition at that institution. Upon her retirement in 1967 and until her death in 1991, she served as Visiting Professor of Nutrition for the Department of Biochemistry at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. During her time at Vanderbilt, Dr. Todhunter helped found the medical library’s history of nutrition collections, and it was through her generosity, efforts, and connections in the field that many of these collections came together.

Dr. Todhunter also served as President of the American Dietetic Association from 1957-1958. Her personal papers are available at Vanderbilt University’s History of Medicine Collections.

-Submitted by Christopher Ryland, Eskind Biomedical Library, Vanderbilt University, January 2019.

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At the University of California, Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ), Margaret W. Wythe (1880-1958) was a valuable assistant to director Dr. Joseph Grinnell, starting in 1912. She later was promoted to Assistant Curator of Birds from 1925-1947 and was known for her work ethic and attention to detail. Wythe was directly involved in establishing protocols for procedural care of research collections of birds. Wythe aided in the catalogue of over 31,000 specimens including both birds and mammals. As an ornithologist, her fieldwork consisted mainly of species censuses and local observations. She was particularly interested in the distribution of local species and how populations may emigrate due to the development of human infrastructure in the San Francisco Bay region. Wythe's work was often used in collaboration with Dr. Grinnell to create directories and distribution maps of native birds species in California. Accompanying her historical range maps and census data, were approximately seven hundred field entries. Contact the MVZ for more information. 

Submitted by Christina V. Fidler, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, August 2016

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