August 13th is international left-handers day and as a left-hander myself I can think of no better way to mark this than by celebrating some of the many famous lefties in STEM. But first a few facts:
- Left-handers make up approximately 10% of the world’s population.
- We don’t have a definitive reason as to why people are left-handed although it is thought to be genetic.
- The brain is cross-wired so the right hemisphere controls the muscles on the left side of the body. Some people argue that ‘right-brained’ people (left-handers) are more creative and intuitive while ‘left-brained’ people (right-handers) are more logical and analytical. However, this is not scientifically proven.
- There are a significant number of left-handed USA presidents including Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
- Fictional characters portrayed as left-handed include Ned Flanders and Bart Simpson (The Simpsons), Kermit the Frog (The Muppets), Chris Griffin (Family Guy) and Arnold (Hey Arnold).
We’ve profiled some of our top lefties in STEM!
NAME: Neil Armstrong
BORN/DIED: 5th August 1930 – 25th August 2012
JOB: Astronaut and engineer.
KEY FACTS: Neil Armstrong was born in Ohio, USA. He developed a love of flying from the age of 2 when his father took him to an air show. He earned a student flight certificate when he was 16yrs old, before he had his driver’s licence! He was an active boy scout and went on to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Armstrong studied aeronautical engineering at university and spent some time as a fighter pilot for the navy. in 1962, Armstrong applied and was accepted onto a NASA astronaut program. He famously travelled into space on the Apollo 11 mission and was the first man to walk on the moon.
ACHIEVEMENTS: The first man to walk on the moon. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour a civilian can earn from the US government.
NAME: Marie Sklodowska-Curie
BORN/DIED: 7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934
JOB: Physicist and Chemist
KEY FACTS: Marie Curie grew up in Poland and did well at school. Marie wanted to go to university and study to become a scientist but it was expensive and at the time, university was thought of as mainly for men. Eventually Marie earned her degree in Physics from a university in France. Marie did lots of experiments and discovered two new elements for the periodic table! She named them Polonium (after her hometown of Poland) and Radium (because it gave off such strong radiation).
ACHIEVEMENTS: Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1903 for her work on radiation. She was the first woman to ever get this award. In 1911 she was awarded a second Nobel Peace Prize for her discovery of two new elements.
NAME: Mark Zuckerberg
BORN: 14th May 1984
JOB: Internet entrepreneur and computer programmer.
KEY FACTS: Zuckerberg was born in New York and excelled at school. He began to use computers to write software while at middle school and went on to study computer science at Harvard. While he was there, he launched a website called ‘facemash’ where students could choose the best looking person from a choice of photos. However, Harvard closed the site down and Zuckerberg apologised publicly for using photos without permission. By Jan 2004 he had begun to write the code for Facebook. Facebook has since gone from strength-to-strength, making Zuckerberg one of the richest people in the world.
ACHIEVEMENTS: Zuckerberg is the co-founder of Facebook and is currently ranked by Forbes as the 5th richest person in the world. He and his wife give a lot of their wealth to good causes.
NAME: Benjamin Franklin
BORN/DIED: 17th Jan 1706 – 17th April 1790
JOB: Political thinker and founding father of the USA, scientist and inventor.
KEY FACTS: Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston Massachusetts in the USA. He stopped going to school when he was 10 and gained most of his education from reading books. Throughout his career he excelled in many areas. He is best known as one of the founding fathers of the USA. He was also a scientist and inventor. He was interested in lots of areas including meteorology, wave theory of light and electricity. He designed an experiment to prove that lightening was electricity by flying a kite in a storm. He went on to invent the lightening rod amongst other things.
ACHIEVEMENTS: He earned the title of the ‘First American’ for his work as a founding father of America. He invented the lightening rod, glass harmonica (a glass musical instrument), Franklin stove (a metal fireplace designed to produce more heat and less smoke) and bifocal glasses (with near and long distance lenses).
NAME: Leonardo Da Vinci (Italian)
BORN/DIED: 15th April 1452 – 2nd May 1519
JOB: Artist, inventor, scientist.
KEY FACTS: Leonardo was born in Florence, Italy. Little is known about his early life. When he was 14 he became apprenticed to a famous artist and went on to become a famous artist himself. However, he was interested in lots of other areas including architecture, mathematics, engineering, geology, astronomy and paleontology. He kept journals full of his sketches which included scientific sketches and drawings of ideas he had for inventions.
Leonardo was fascinated by fossils. He was ahead of his time in recognising that they contained the remains of prehistoric animals. He recorded these observations in his journals. Da Vinci was ambidextrous, perfecting the ability to write with both his left and right hand.
ACHIEVEMENTS: He is regarded as one of the most famous artists in history with paintings including ‘The Last Supper’ and the ‘Mona Lisa’. He is also remembered for his designs for inventions such as a flying machine.
NAME: Bill Gates
BORN: 28th October 1955
JOB: Entrepreneur, programmer, businessman.
KEY FACTS: Bill Gates grew up in Seattle, Washington, USA. He took an interest in programming as a teenager, spending lots of time on the computer in his school. He went on to take graduate level computer science courses at Harvard. Gates took a ‘leave of absence’ from Harvard to start his own computer company (Microsoft) with his business partner. His involved him designing software and writing code. Microsoft launched its first retail version of Microsoft Windows in 1985 and went on to manage the company until 2006. It went on to become incredibly successful, earning Gates billions.
ACHIEVEMENTS: Gates is the founder of Microsoft and is one of the world’s highest-earning billionaires. He gives approximately half of his wealth to charities and good causes.
Other famous lefties in STEM include Buzz Aldrin, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford.