Isabella Karle’s Curious Crystal Method
What neighbors in a quiet D.C. suburb might not know is that the silver-haired gardening grandmother next door is perhaps one of the greatest—if largely unknown—scientists of her generation.
When Isabella Lugoski Karle makes her weekly errand run to Shoppers Food Warehouse, she navigates the store quietly, weaving her cart through aisles of canned goods and around the produce section. At ninety-one, her cropped white hair is neatly combed and she holds herself up straight, loading the ingredients for a braised chicken recipe into her cart.
What Isabella Karle’s fellow shoppers don’t know as they wait beside her in the checkout line is that she revolutionized the method of discovering the medicines that many of them regularly purchase over at the pharmacy counter. In the narrowly focused scientific field of crystallography, Karle is renowned as an intrepid pioneer. Her work on molecular structures has had sweeping impact, from helping scientists studying nerve transmissions to aiding chemists synthesizing pest repellents. She has won millions of dollars in prize money and has been celebrated at chemistry conferences around the world. She was also the subj…
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial