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Scientists and Technologists from Kansas

Kansans have been involved in a variety of scientific and technological endeavors including inventing the microchip, discovering a planet, and groundbreaking research in botany. Several Kansans have been honored with Nobel Prizes, among other prestigious awards, for their work in science and technology.

Agricultural developments created in the state became a boon for Kansas farmers and led to the growth of the agricultural industry. Aviation pioneers took advantage of ideal flying conditions to begin design and production of aircraft, placing Kansas at the forefront in the industry. Technological developments helped to grow the oil and gas refining industry in the state.



Kansas men and women have played a strong role in the field of medicine in the state and beyond its borders. Kansans have led the way as medical doctors, psychiatrists, dentists, nurses, and in medical research. As a result of these efforts, Kansas has become a national leader for its role in the fields of biosciences.

Mary A. "Mother" Bickerdyke

 "Mother," as she was affectionately known, helped Kansas veterans, the victims of Indian raids, farmers ruined by the grasshopper invasion of 1874, and many others.

John Romulus Brinkley

Dr. J. R. Brinkley attracted national attention with his "goat gland" transplant surgery, a procedure that purported to restore masculine virility.

Samuel J. Crumbine

Samuel Crumbine initiated a vigorous public health campaign in Kansas. He began by attacking the use of "common" drinking cups and soon had abolished their use on railroads and in public buildings.

William Wellington Gavitt

William Gavitt built a patent medicine company, headquartered in Topeka, which sold "Gavitt's System Regulator." According to one Topeka newspaper, this "great discovery" would "absolutely cure all kidney, liver, stomach and blood diseases."

Arthur Emanuel Hertzler

Arthur Hertzler wrote a popular best seller entitled The Horse and Buggy Doctor (1938) in which he gave a personal account of his experiences as a country doctor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Ed Jerman

A pioneer in the field of X-ray technology who helped apply the technology for use in medicine.

Will, Edwin, C. F., Karl, and Flo Menninger

Dr. C. F. Menninger became interested in mental illness in 1920 after his eldest son Karl completed a medical degree at Harvard. Dr. C. F. and Dr. Karl received psychiatric training and in 1925, when Dr. Will joined the family practice, the Menningers added a psychiatric hospital to their Topeka clinic. Within a few years, they had built an internationally known treatment and training center.

Andrew Taylor Still

A. T. Still was an osteopath, meaning he didnt use drugs and surgery in his medical treatment. He moved to Kirksville, Missouri, and founded the American School of Osteopathy.

Earl Sutherland

Sutherland received the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine for his study of how hormones regulate body functions. 

Lucy Hobbs Taylor

Lucy B. Hobbs made history as the first American woman to receive a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.


Natural Sciences

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver found over 300 uses for the peanut. Among Carver's many inventions were a way of turning soybeans into plastic, wood shavings into synthetic marble, and cotton into paving blocks. He also disseminated his extensive agricultural research to farmers through conferences and demonstrations.

Isaac T. Goodnow

Goodnow helped in the establishment of Bluemont College, a Methodist institution. Perhaps Goodnow's greatest contribution to the educational climate of Manhattan was his work in locating the Kansas Agricultural College there. The building and grounds of Bluemont College were donated to the state to serve as the foundation for the new institution, which has developed into the present-day Kansas State University.

William M. Jardine

William Marion Jardine achieved an outstanding reputation for his work in agricultural education that extended far beyond the borders of the state. As a result, in 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed him secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, a position he held for the next four years.

Francis Huntington Snow

Francis Snow traveled throughout the West collecting thousands of species of plants, animals, and insects, and eventually established a natural history museum on the university campus.

Geology and Archeology

Robert Ballard

Ballard led many underwater expeditions including that of the Titanic.

Chip Lagerbom

Lagerbom lived in a tent in the Trans Antarctic Mountains during the summer of 1990-1991, going as far south as anyone can go on earth.

Wallace Pratt

Born in Phillipsburg, Wallace Pratt graduated from the University of Kansas and began working for the Kansas Geological Survey. In 1918 he joined Humble Oil & Refinery as the company's first geologist. He joined Standard Oil in 1937 where he worked until his retirement in 1945. Pratt helped advance the oil industry in applying geology in identifying the location of oil deposits, and encouraging the use of geophysical instruments.

Waldo R. Wedel

Wedel became one of the most respected archeologists in America.


Coleman Company

Coleman introduced the propane-fueled lantern in 1972.

Albert Alexander Hyde

Hyde invented Mentholatum in 1889.

Jack St. Clair Kilby

Kilby invented the microchip for Texas Instruments which helped to launch the development of the computer age.

Omar Knedlik

Knedlik invented the ICEE machine, the first frozen carbonated drink machine, in 1961.

Almon Strowger

Strowger invented the dial telephone in 1889.

Aviation and Astronomy

Walter H. Beech

Walter H. Beech opened the Beech Aircraft Company. His aircraft set standards considered unattainable by other "experts."

L. Philip Billard

Philip Billard learned to fly from Topeka aviator and aircraft builder, A.K. Longren. His flights around the capital city were frequently mentioned in the Topeka papers.

David D. Blanton

Blanton invented the autopilot in 1954.

Clyde V. Cessna

Cessna created the company that still bears his name is today one of the leading manufacturers of small aircraft in the world.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly the Atlantic alone. Over the next five years, Earhart set aviation records, wrote books and articles, and taught at Purdue University.

Joe Engle

Engle commanded the space shuttle Columbia II in 1981, the first aircraft ever to return to space. Engle commanded the Columbia for the second time in his career in 1985.

Ron Evans

Evens served as a crewman on the second lunar mission in 1969.

Albin K. Longren

A. K. Longren's brief flight in his pusher-type biplane on September 2, 1911, marked the beginning of a new era in Kansas aviation history. The "Topeka I" was the first Kansas aircraft to actually fly

Glenn L. Martin

Glenn Martin was a world famous aircraft manufacturer.

William Purvis and Charles Wilson

They invented America's first patented helicopter in 1909-1910.

Lloyd Stearman

Stearman orked with Walter Beech and Clyde Cessna to form Travel Air Manufacturing in Wichita. The aviation pioneer later built thousands of training planes for World War II.

Clyde Tombaugh

Tombaugh discovered of Planet X in 1930.

Entry: Scientists and Technologists from Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2010

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.