Elizabeth Moon is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Her novel The Speed of Dark won the 2003 Nebula Award. Moon began writing professionally in her mid-thirties and had a newspaper column in a county weekly newspaper. In 1986 she published her first science fiction in the monthly magazine Analog and the anthology series Sword and Sorceress. Her stories appeared regularly in Analog the next few years. Her first novel The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter (1988) won the Compton Crook Award and inaugurated the Paksennarrion series. Most of her work has military science fiction themes, although biology, politics and personal relationships also feature strongly. The Serrano Legacy is a space opera. Her Nebula-winning novel The Speed of Dark (2003) is a near-future story told from the viewpoint of an autistic computer programmer, inspired by her own autistic son Michael.
Hou Yifan is a Chinese chess prodigy. She is a former Women’s World Chess Champion, the youngest ever to win the title, as well as the youngest female player ever to qualify for the title of Grandmaster. At the age of 12, Hou became the youngest player ever to participate in the FIDE Women’s World Championship (Yekaterinburg 2006) and the Chess Olympiad (Torino 2006). In June 2007, she became China’s youngest National Women’s Champion ever. She achieved the titles of Woman FIDE Master in January 2004, Woman Grandmaster in January 2007, she would have qualified for the International Master title in September 2008 by reaching the final of the Women’s World Championship but in August 2008 she had already qualified for the Grandmaster title by achieving her 3rd GM norm. In 2010, she became the youngest Women’s World Chess Champion in history by winning the Women’s World Championship in Hatay, Turkey, at the age of 16. She then defended her title by defeating Indian GM Koneru Humpy in November 2011. In the most recent (January 2013) FIDE rating list, Hou is ranked as the No. 1 girl player in the world, the No. 2 female player, and the No. 11 junior player. She is only the third female chess player to achieve a FIDE rating of over 2600.
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. After two initially unsuccessful early novels, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. In 1957, she published her best-known work, the philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward she turned to nonfiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own magazines and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982. Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions. The reception for Rand’s fiction from literary critics has historically been mixed and polarizing, with extreme opinions both for and against her work commonly being expressed. Nonetheless, she continues to have a popular following, as well as a growing influence among scholars and academics. Rand’s political ideas have been influential among libertarians and conservatives. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.
Gertrude Belle Elion was an American biochemist and pharmacologist, and a 1988 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Working alone as well as with George H. Hitchings, Elion developed a multitude of new drugs, using innovative research methods that would later lead to the development of the AIDS drug AZT. Born in New York City to immigrant parents, she graduated from Hunter College in 1937 and New York University (M.Sc.) in 1941. Unable to obtain a graduate research position due to her gender, she worked as a lab assistant and a high school teacher. Later, she left to work as an assistant to George H. Hitchings at the Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical company (now GlaxoSmithKline). She never obtained a formal Ph.D., but was later awarded an honorary Ph.D from Polytechnic University of New York in 1989 and honorary SD degree from Harvard university in 1998. Rather than relying on trial-and-error, Elion and Hitchings used the differences in biochemistry between normal human cells and pathogens (disease-causing agents) to design drugs that could kill or inhibit the reproduction of particular pathogens without harming the host cells.
Shannon Matilda Wells Lucid is an American biochemist and a NASA astronaut. At one time, she held the record for the longest duration stay in space by an American, as well as by a woman. She has flown in space five times including a prolonged mission aboard the Mir space station. Lucid was selected for the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1978. Of the six women in this first class with female astronauts, Lucid was the only one who was a mother at the time of being hired. Lucid is best known for her fifth spaceflight, when she spent 188 days in space, from March 22 to September 26, 1996, including 179 days aboard Mir, the Russian space station. Both to and from Mir, she travelled on Space Shuttle Atlantis, launching on STS-76 and returning on STS-79. Her stay on Mir was not expected to last so long but her return was delayed twice, extending her stay by about six weeks. During the mission she performed numerous life science and physical science experiments. As a result of her time aboard Mir, she held the record for the most hours in orbit by a non-Russian and most hours in orbit by a woman.
Ariel Schrag is an American cartoonist and television writer who achieved critical recognition at an unusually early age for her autobiographical comics. While attending high school in Berkeley, California, Schrag self-published her first comic series, Awkward, depicting events from her freshman year, originally selling copies to friends and family. Slave Labor Graphics subsequently reprinted Awkward as a graphic novel, followed by three more books based on her next three years of school: Definition, Potential, and Likewise. The books were republished by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster in 2008 and 2009. The books tell stories of family life, going to concerts, experimenting with drugs, high school crushes, and coming out as a bisexual and later as a lesbian. Schrag was nominated for the 1998 Kimberly Yale Award for Best New Talent (administered by the Friends of Lulu). Killer Films is producing a movie adaptation of Potential; Schrag has written the screenplay. Schrag graduated from Berkeley High School in 1998. She graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2003, and has continued to work as a cartoonist.
Sarah Jane Vowell is an American author, journalist, essayist and social commentator. Often referred to as a “social observer,” Vowell has written six nonfiction books on American history and culture, most recently Unfamiliar Fishes which was published in 2011. She was a contributing editor for the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International from 1996–2008, where she produced numerous commentaries and documentaries and toured the country in many of the program’s live shows. She was also the voice of Violet in the animated film The Incredibles. Vowell has appeared on television shows such as Nightline, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and the Late Show with David Letterman. She also appeared several times on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In April 2006, Vowell served as the keynote speaker at the 27th Annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference. In August and September 2006, she toured the United States as part of the Revenge Of The Book Eaters national tour, which benefits the children’s literacy centers 826NYC, 826CHI, 826 Valencia, 826LA, 826 Michigan, and 826 Seattle. Vowell also provided commentary in Robert Wuhl’s 2005 Assume the Position HBO specials.