SPAIN: Yesterday, 3 October 2021, Google paid a tribute to the Spanish oceonographer Ph. D. María Ángeles Alvariño González. But who was the scientist who discovered 22 new planktonic species and published over a hundred scientific books, essays, and articles?
Overview of the life of Maria Angeles Alvariño Gonzalez
Born on the 3 October 1916 in Serrantes, a small coastal town in Galicia, Spain, her university studies in Madrid were interrupted by the war, but she managed to graduate in 1941. A couple of years after becoming a high school teacher, she moved back with her husband to Madrid, where he was assigned as a military to the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO). The IEO did not officially admit women, but for the quality of Ángeles’ research work, they allowed her to become a fellow scientist in 1950.
Two years later, Alvariño became a biologist at the IEO’s Oceanographic Center of Vigo. In 1953, she also became the first female scientist to work aboard a British research ship. Three years later, she moved to the US under the tutelage of Mary Sears, who recommended her for a position at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California.
In 1970, Alvariño started working as a research biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Starting in 1976, also worked to coordinate oceanic research among Latin American nations, and she studied the Antarctic as she received numerous academic appointments from universities such as the University of San Diego, the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico, the Federal University of Panama, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
After retiring in 1987 in Spain, she continued teaching in a couple of universities abroad and concentrated on publicizing the history of marine science in Spain as an emeritus scientist.
What did Maria Angeles Alvariño Gonzalez achieve?
A fishery research biologist and oceanographer in plankton biology, Maria Angeles was the first-ever female scientist to work abroad on any British or Spanish exploration ship. Renowned for her work as a plankton biologist, she is considered the first Spanish woman scientist to achieve global relevance and is mentioned in the prestigious Encyclopedia of World Scientists.
María Ángeles also received various grants from institutions such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Fullbright Commission, the US Office of the Navy, the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations, and the US National Science Foundation.
Recognition of Maria Angeles Alvariño Gonzalez
Awarded the Silver Medal of the Xunta de Galicia in 1993 and in 2005, Alvariño was recognized as an example of a woman scientist in Women Tech World in 1995. Months after her death, the University of La Coruña dedicated Science Week to her. Since 2012, one of the most advanced oceanographic vessels in the Spanish fleet bears her name: Ángeles Alvariño. This vessel was sponsored by her daughter Ángeles Laira Alvariño, who also donated her mother’s scientific legacy to the Municipal Archive of La Coruña.
The Ángeles Alvariño ship is equipped with advanced technology for the investigation of marine geology, physical and chemical oceanography, marine biology, fisheries and environmental control. Onboard it, 15 researchers continue to discover the secrets of the ocean to which Ángeles Alvariño dedicated her career.