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American research scientist Claudia Joan Alexander was born on May 30, 1959 in Vancouver, Canada, but grew up in Santa Clara, California. She earned her BA in geophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, her masters in geophysics & space physics from UCLA, and a PhD in atmospheric, oceanic & space sciences at the University of Michigan.

Alexander went to work at the United States Geological Survey, and then to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She was the science coordinator for an instrument aboard the Galileo spacecraft and in the mission's final phase, was the project manager. As a planetary scientist she researched a number of topics, and also became the science coordinator on the Cassini mission to Saturn. In 2000 she became the project manager for NASA's contribution in the European Rosetta mission to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

As a scientist, she was also a science communicator and an advocate for women and minorities in STEM fields. She mentored young people, especially girls of color. And in addition to being a scientist, she was a published author, writing children's books and science fiction.

Claudia Alexander worked with the Rosetta mission until her untimely death from cancer in 2015. Her colleagues named a feature on Comet C-G after her. The Director of NASA's JPL wrote in tribute:
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Claudia brought a rare combination of skills to her work as a space explorer. Of course with a doctorate in plasma physics, her technical credentials were solid. But she also had a special understanding of how scientific discovery affects us all, and how our greatest achievements are the result of teamwork, which came easily to her. Her insight into the scientific process will be sorely missed.


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Helen Patricia Sharman, English chemist, astronaut and science communicator, was born 30 May 1963 in Grenoside, Sheffield.

She earned her bachelor of science degree in chemistry at the University of Sheffield, then a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London. (Sharman has since been award a number of honorary doctorates, as well.) She went on to work in research and development at General Electric Company, and later as a chemist for the Mars Corporation.

Then Project Juno came along - it was to be a cooperative Soviet-British mission. But who in Britain would become the first British astronaut? Nearly 13,000 people applied, and eventually Sharman was chosen. She spent a year and a half in intensive training in Star City where Soviet cosmonauts were trained.

When she finally flew in May 1991, the mission lasted eight days. Sharman had been the first British astronaut, the first European woman in space, and the first woman to visit the Mir space station.

After a triumphant return to Earth, Sharman spent several years self-employed in presenting radio and television programs and other platforms for taking science to the public. Since then, she has worked at the National Physical Laboratory, and from 2015 at Imperial College London.


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Heather Anita Couper was a British astronomer, broadcaster and science populariser. She was born on June 2, 1949 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England, and decided at age eight that she would be an astronomer.

After studying astrophysics at the University of Leicester and researching clusters of galaxies at Oxford University, Couper was appointed senior planetarium lecturer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. She subsequently hosted two series on Channel 4 television – The Planets and The Stars – as well as making many TV guest appearances. On radio, Couper presented the award-winning programme Britain’s Space Race as well as the 30-part series Cosmic Quest for BBC Radio 4.

Couper served as President of the British Astronomical Association from 1984 to 1986, the first woman to be elected to this position. As Astronomy Professor in perpetuity at Gresham College, London, she was the first female professor in the 400-year history of the college. On her own, or in collaboration with her friend Nigel Henbest, she wrote over 40 books. They founded Hencoup Enterprises to focus on popularising astronomy.

In 1993, Couper was invited to join the newly created Millennium Commission, as one of nine commissioners responsible for distributing money from the UK National Lottery to projects that would celebrate and commemorate the new millennium. For her work on the Millennium Commission, as well as her promotion of science to public, Couper was appointed a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2007.

Asteroid 3922 Heather is named in her honour.

Couper died at Stoke Mandeville Hospital on 19 February 2020 at the age of 70 after a short illness.

[Credit: Wikipedia, photo Daily Star]


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Erika Böhm-Vitense was born Erika Helga Ruth Vitense on June 3, 1923 in Kurau (now Stockelsdorf), Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

She began her undergraduate studies at University of Tübingen, but moved to Kiel University in 1945 for its stronger astronomy department. After completing her undergraduate degree in 1948, she stayed on for graduate studies. Not only did she complete her doctorate degree three years later, but she was also awarded the university's prize for the best Ph.D. thesis. She then stayed at Kiel as a research associate, Two years after receiving her Ph.D., she published The hydrogen convection zone of the Sun. This is one of her most famous works as it has been cited at least 287 times since its publication.

In 1954 she married fellow student Karl-Heinz Böhm and afterwards was known as Erika Böhm-Vitense. The pair visited Lick Observatory and the University of California, Berkeley for a year. Upon their return to Kiel, her husband, who was also an astrophysicist, was given a tenure track position, but she was not. The same situation applied when they went to Heidelberg.

In 1968, they went to the University of Washington in Seattle where Erika started as Senior Research Associate. She was later awarded a full-time professor position in 1971, eventually becoming a professor emeritus.
 
During her time at the University of Washington, she made fundamental contributions to the understanding of Cepheid variable stars, stellar binaries, stellar temperatures, chromospheric activity, rotation, and convection. She has over 300 academic papers on the Harvard Astrophysics Data System, of which she is the first author on more than two-thirds of these publications.

Erika was also awarded the Annie Jump Cannon Prize from the American Astronomical Society in 1965, and the Karl Schwarzschild Medal from the Astronomische Gesellschaft in 2003. The latter is most prestigious prize in Germany in the field of astronomy and astrophysics.

Erika Böhm-Vitense continued to live in Seattle until her death in 2017 at the age of 93.

[Wikipedia, University of Washington]


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