From wiping out smallpox to saving the Pike Place Market to helping rescue Apollo 13 astronauts, here are some astonishing feats performed by UW alumni, faculty and staff.
Imprisoned for His Beliefs
When he was a UW senior, Gordon Hirabayashi, '46, '49, '52, purposely broke a World War II curfew imposed on Americans of Japanese descent, setting up a legal challenge to the curfew and forced internment of 120,000 Japanese. He lost that challenge and spent two years in prison. His conviction was overturned in 1986.
Photo courtesy NASA
Flying to the Moon
As an astronaut on Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the moon, Richard F. Gordon Jr., '51, circled the moon while astronauts Alan Bean and Pete Conrad walked on the lunar surface in November 1969.
Saving Native American Heritage
Anthropology Professor Melville Jacobs preserved 524 Native American songsmost in languages that are now extinctby building his own portable phonograph and crossing the Pacific Northwest in his automobile to record tribal songs.
Rescuing Apollo 13
A renowned engineer for the Apollo missions to the moon, George W. Jeffs, '45, '48, was part of the team that raced the clock to save the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft, which had suffered a catastrophic explosion 220 miles from Earth. His development of real-time management with computers allowed scientists to make split-second decisions. The rescue team won a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
From the Holocaust to Congress
Rep. Tom Lantos, '49, '50, is a Hungarian-born Jew who survived Nazi death camps to become the only Holocaust survivor elected to the U.S. Congress. He was penniless when he arrived in Seattle after the war to study at the UW, but eventually earned a Ph.D. at California and was elected to Congress in 1980. He has been one of this nation's greatest human rights advocates for the past two decades.
Husky Media Relations
The Man with the Golden Arm
Quarterback Warren Moon, '78, threw for more yards (70,553) than anyone else in the history of professional football. This includes 49,325 yards in a 17-year NFL career and 21,228 yards in six years in the CFL.
Escaped Nazis to Become Genetics Pioneer
Medicine and Genome Sciences Professor Arno Motulsky survived Nazi persecution and prisoner of war camps to make a desperate escape to America. After becoming a doctor, he joined the UW medical school and founded its division of medical genetics-one of the first in the country and crucial to the eventual decoding of the human genome.
Eradicating Disease in Africa
Photo by Peter Slavenburg,
courtesy Doctors Without Borders
Physician Jill Seaman, '79, fought a parasitic disease in war-torn Sudan, helping curb an epidemic that had killed more than 100,000 people. She has gone from village to village, helping treat tuberculosis, kala-azar and sleeping sickness in areas just south of the western Upper Nile, where infection rates top 20 percent.
Stunning Olympic Victory
After meeting for the first time at the U.S. Olympic Trials, the 1936 Washington Varsity Crew overcame inexperienceand assignment to the worst possible laneto come from behind and win the Olympic gold medal for eight-man crew.
... that the University of Washington was the first public university established on the West Coast. Even though both California and Oregon became states long before Washington, neither had chartered an institution of higher education before the Territory of Washington chartered its first university in 1861.
Setting the Standard for Women's Crew
The Washington Women's Crew team has won more NCAA titles than any other women's crew (1997, 1998 and 2001) since the NCAA instituted a national women's crew championship.
Saved Pike Place Market
|Pike Place Public Market|
Photo courtesy National Park Service
Architecture Professor Victor Steinbrueck, '35, saved Pike Place Market from the wrecking ball when the city of Seattle wanted to tear it down to provide a high-rise complex with residential, commercial and hotel facilities. His successful ballot initiative in 1971 created a historic district around the market; today it is a must-see site for any visitor.
Designing the World's Tallest Buildings
Architect Minoru Yamasaki, '34, designed the 110-story World Trade Center towers in New York City. Everything about them was record-breaking: 43,000 windows, 99 elevators, 1,350 feet tall. Credit goes to Yamasaki and structural engineer Leslie E. Robinson for the strength of their design, which prevented the towers from collapsing immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, sparing the lives of thousands.