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Isabella Karle
Isabella Karle.jpg
Born Isabella Helen Lugoski
(1921-12-02) December 2, 1921 (age 93)
Detroit, Michigan
Nationality United States
Fields Crystallography
Alma mater University of Michigan
Notable awards Garvan–Olin Medal (1978)
Gregori Aminoff Prize (1988)
Bower Award (1993)
National Medal of Science (1995)
Spouse Jerome Karle (m. 1942; 3 children)

Isabella Helen Lugoski Karle (born December 2, 1921) is an American x-ray crystallographer. In 1969 she established the structure of venom extracted from South American frogs. This was followed in 1975 with the structure of valinomycin.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Born Isabella Helen Lugoski in Detroit, Michigan, USA, on December 2, 1921, the daughter of immigrants from Poland, she attended the local public schools, where a female chemistry teacher led her to her pursuit of the field as a career.[2] She attended the University of Michigan on full scholarship, where she majored in physical chemistry and received a Bachelor of Science at age 19, followed by Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in the field. She worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, where she developed techniques to extract plutonium chloride from a mixture containing plutonium oxide.[3]

She joined the United States Naval Research Laboratory after the end of the war. Karle advanced the practical uses of the work her husband, Nobel Prize winner Jerome Karle, did on using X-ray scattering techniques to directly determine the structure of crystals, a technique that is used to study the biological, chemical, metallurgical and physical characteristics, allowing processes to be designed to duplicate the molecules being studied. This technique has played a major role in the development of new pharmaceutical products and other synthesized materials.[3] She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993.[4]

Isabella (seated center) and Jerome Karle (left foreground) at their 2009 retirement ceremony

On July 31, 2009, she and her husband retired from the Naval Research Laboratory, after a combined 127 years of service to the United States Government, with Karle joining the NRL in 1946, two years after her husband.[3] Retirement ceremonies for the Karles were attended by United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who presented the couple with the Department of the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Navy's highest form of recognition to civilian employees.[3]


  1. ^ Karle, I L (March 1973). "Successful women in the sciences: analysis of determinants. I. Individual life experiences. Crystallographer". Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. (UNITED STATES) 208 (1 Successful Wo): 11–4. Bibcode:1973NYASA.208...11K. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1973.tb30812.x. ISSN 0077-8923. PMID 4572877. 
  2. ^ Staff. " profile", Journal of Chemical Education. Accessed September 22, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d McKinney, Donna. "Jerome and Isabella Karle Retire from NRL Following Six Decades of Scientific Exploration", United States Naval Research Laboratory press release dated July 21, 2009. Accessed September 22, 2009.
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter K" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 29, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabella_Karle — Please support Wikipedia.
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Isabella Karle's Interview

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14 news items

The Week Magazine

The Week Magazine
Sat, 15 Nov 2014 10:56:15 -0800

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 ...
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (press release)
Tue, 25 Jun 2013 13:37:30 -0700

Dr. Karle shared both his work and his life with his wife Dr. Isabella Karle, who worked alongside him at the Naval Research Laboratory. At NRL, Dr. Karle held the Chair of Science as Chief Scientist of the Laboratory for the Structure of Matter. Dr ...

Washington Post

New York Times
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 20:10:29 -0700

Isabella Karle, who was also a chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory, joined her husband in the work, employing X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of previously intractable molecules. “After I found some structures that no one could ...

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (press release)

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (press release)
Wed, 17 Dec 2014 04:00:00 -0800

Initiated by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in 2010, the Karles Invitational Conference is an annual series in recognition of the distinguished career contributions of Dr. Jerome Karle, 1985 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and Dr. Isabella Karle ...


Wed, 24 Jun 2015 12:58:31 -0700

Two weeks ago, Nobel-prize winning cell biologist Tim Hunt created a storm of controversy when he made a comment about how he can't work with women because he always falls in love with them, or they with him. But why does he think love in the lab is ...

Oak Ridger

Oak Ridger
Tue, 23 Jun 2015 08:45:00 -0700

On Tuesday, June 2, in Washington, D.C., the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Atomic Heritage Foundation held a unique and ever increasingly difficult to arrange gathering. A reunion of a group of veterans of Manhattan Project provided those of us ...


Fri, 20 Feb 2015 15:08:16 -0800

In 2013, she was awarded the title of Jerome and Isabella Karle Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry for the second time. Jeremy Allen is the higher education reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering the University of Michigan, Eastern ...

Royal Society of Chemistry

Royal Society of Chemistry
Thu, 08 Jan 2015 03:03:45 -0800

The outstanding crystallographer Isabella Karle lamented limited popular American scientific knowledge; 1997 chemistry Nobel laureate Jens Skou thought grants should supplement basic expenses; Francis Crick had collaborators rather than students; ...

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