Purpose and History of the Month


National Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15 to October 15 and was created to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of those with ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Hispanic Heritage Week was created under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to a 30-day period. It became law later that year.

September 15 was chosen as the beginning of the observation because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. And September 16 and 18 are that of Mexico and Chile, respectively.

For more information, check out The Law Library of Congress’ guide to commemorative observations, including a comprehensive inventory of the Public Laws, Presidential Proclamations and congressional resolutions related to Hispanic American Heritage Month.[1]



A Few Hispanic Scientists of Note…



Mexican-American physicist Albert Baez was the co-inventor of the X-ray reflection microscope. [2]



France A. Córdova is an astrophysicist and the 14th director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). [3]


Nobel Prize winning biochemist Milstein and his team created methods for the unlimited production of monoclonal antibodies. This work allowed monoclonal antibodies to be used in research, diagnostic tests, treatment of several autoimmune diseases, and a host of other uses.[4]



The first Mexican-born scientist to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry was Mario Molina. Molina and colleagues discovered that chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs, commonly used in refrigerants) cause significant environmental damage and contribute to ozone depletion.[5]


Severo Ochoa

Academic, Chemist, Scientist (1905-1933)

This Spanish-American biochemist and molecular biologist was co-awarded the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the elucidating mechanisms of RNA and DNA synthesis.[6]


Lydia Villa-Komaroff (ASCB Member)

Villa-Komaroff is a molecular and cellular biologist who has been an academic laboratory scientist, a university administrator, and a business woman. She was the third[1] Mexican American woman in the United States to receive a doctorate degree in the sciences (1975) and is a co-founding member of The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).[2] Her most notable discovery was in 1978 during her postdoctoral research, when she was part of a team that discovered how bacterial cells could be used to generate insulin.[3][7]


ASCB’s Minorities Affairs Committee


Find out more about ASCB’s MAC and our 2017 E.E. Just Lectureship Award winner Dr. JoAnn Trejo. Click here.

The preceding consist of a few highlights, not an exhaustive discussion, of the tremendous contributions of the Hispanic community. This is one way ASCB honors the diversity of the scientific workforce.

If you have contributions that could be added to these lists, please email sblatch@ascb.org



[1] The Library of Congress. National Hispanic Heritage Month. https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/about/

[2] Café con Leche Republicans. http://www.cafeconlecherepublicans.com/mexican-immigrant-albert-baez-inventor-of-x-ray-microscopes-and-telescopes/

[3] National Science Foundation. https://www.nsf.gov/news/speeches/cordova/cordova_bio.jsp

[4] Mental Floss. http://mentalfloss.com/article/86985/10-game-changing-hispanic-scientists-you-didnt-learn-about-school

[5] Mental Floss. http://mentalfloss.com/article/86985/10-game-changing-hispanic-scientists-you-didnt-learn-about-school

[6] Nobel Prize.org. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1959/

[7] Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydia_Villa-Komaroff