From the Science of Sex to Nazi Destroyers, 11 of the Coolest Queer People in Science
There’s no question: smart is sexy, and our hearts will forever belong to the queer scientists and nerds among us. If you’ve been searching for a science-crush, look no further — here are some of the world’s hottest brains, both past, and present, suitable for pinning up in the lab and lusting dreamily over.
Below are 11 of the coolest queer scientists to ever have existed.
1. Bruce Voeller: Made Safe Sex Safer
Not only was Bruce a pioneering among queer scientists in the field of HIV/AIDS medicine — he gave AIDS its name — he was also a founding member of the National Gay Task Force. In the laboratory, he helped identify new ways to prevent the spread of viruses during sex; he also persuaded President Jimmy Carter to become the first sitting president to meet with an LGBT civil rights group.
2. Christine Bland: Bringing Humanity to New Planets
We might know far less about space and our neighboring planets if not for the contributions of Christine Bland, an engineer responsible for designing many space-age devices that have expanded our ability to explore the heavens. She helped develop the electronic hardware on NASA’s Orion spacecraft, a vessel that will help human astronauts actually land on Mars — traveling much further than we ever have before!
She’s also chair of Lockheed Martin’s Transgender Council.
3. Leonardo da Vinci: Renaissance Man
Is there anything Leonardo couldn’t do? He was a painter, inventor, musician, cartographer, and by some accounts a passionate lover. He was also a passionate observational scientist with a formidable understanding of geology, geometry, optics, physics, zoology and other fields.
Not only did he dissect over 30 male and female corpses (as well as frogs, monkeys, birds and horses) during his lifetime — sometimes drawing their anatomies to perfect his own art — but he also came up with the concepts of tanks, helicopters and plate tectonics long before their discovery.
In his mid-20s, Leonardo was arrested for having sex with a male acquaintance, but his wealthy patrons are suspected of helping get the charges dismissed.
4. Jesse Michael Bering: Exploring Our Ideas of Sexuality and the Afterlife
What happens when we die, and why do we think we can answer that question? Dr. Bering’s work looks deep into the brains of humans and chimps, exploring the biological nature of what we call religious experiences, but he has also examined the evolutionary and cultural underpinnings of sexual behavior.
He used to run a delightfully pervy Scientific American blog called “Bering In Mind” — in which he tackled such issues as the dangers of colonial prudishness, erotic barfing, and lethal orgasms — but he also won a 2010 “Scientist of the Year Award” from the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals for his work in psychology.
5. Alan Turing: Nazi Fighter
A brilliant British mathematician who is widely considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, Turing invented the machine to decode Nazi messages. But his country turned on him when they learned he was gay, sentencing him to chemical castration that lead him to commit suicide.
While most people know this part of his story, fewer realize that Turning also studied “mathematical biology”, particularly the patterns and shapes of plants. His work has helped explain the natural growth of feathers and fur, the fetal development of the human heart and lungs. Biologists consider his work in this field seminal to this day.
6. Kerry Sieh: Earthquake Predictor
Dr. Sieh’s research is groundbreaking — literally — in that he’s developed new techniques for predicting earthquakes by studying ancient tectonics. He’s also a longtime advisor for to Caltech’s Student Pride Association.
7. Louise Pearce: Saved 100,000 Lives
Dr. Pearce spent her whole life breaking new ground: she obtained a degree in physiology in 1907, a rare accomplishment for a woman back then. She went on to develop a treatment for African Sleeping Sickness, and saved a hundred thousand lives during an outbreak in the Belgian Congo.
8. Virginia Uribe: Launching Careers of Queer Youth
It’s thanks to the work of Dr. Uribe that LGBT youth have access to support services nationwide. She developed standards of support back in the 1980s, and created the Models of Pride conference that connects young queer people with the resources they need to pursue happiness and careers.
9. George Washington Carver
America’s first truly renowned agricultural scientist, Carver is also credited with inventing hundreds of techniques and products. (He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.) What’s not as publicly known is that Carver was believed to be queer by those who knew him. Colleagues of his at the Tuskegee Institute claimed he would “horse around” with men (whatever that means), and upon Carver’s death in 1943, he left all of his assets to fellow scientist Austin W. Curtis Jr, whom Carver was known to walk arm-in-arm with around campus.
10. Margaret Mead: The Science of Sex
Though the topic remains largely taboo in the sciences to this day, Margaret Mead helped push the boundaries of sexuality research by investigating what constitutes “normal” expressions of sex. She’s also responsible for a policy statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science that rejected discrimination against LGBT researchers.
11. Tim Gill: Giving Back
With a $2,000 loan, Tim Gill built the massive technology empire known as Quark, thanks to his engineering, mathematical, and business prowess. Gill now uses the fortune he’s amassed to fund countless charitable endeavors for LGBTs and beyond.
Did you know everyone on this list of queer scientists? Who did we miss? Let us know.
This article was originally published on December 23, 2020. It has since been updated.