Isabella was born in Detroit in 1921 to parents from Poland, Zygmunt Lugoski and Elizabeth Graczyk. Her father painted numbers and letters on trolley cars. Her mother ran a restaurant and worked for the auto industry.
Married Jerome Karle in 1942. They were married 71 years, until he died in 2013.
They had three daughters: Louise Karle Hanson, Jean Karle Dean, and Madeleine Karle Tawney.
She passed away in 2017.
As a girl, Isabella was interested in chemistry and was inspired by a biography of Marie Curie. But she was also told chemistry was not an appropriate field for women.
Bachelor's in Chemistry from University of Michigan in 1944 at age 19, where she met her husband. Went on to earn her PhD.
Worked for the Manhattan Project in WWII.
Joined the Naval Research Laboratory in 1946, where her husband also worked. They worked side-by-side until both retired in 2009.
Jerome Karle shared the 1985 Nobel Prize in chemistry with the mathematician Herbert A. Hauptman, also a colleague at the NRL. Isabella Karle was not named as a recipient of the prize, although she had participated in much of the work. Jerome Karle said he hoped the honor would be extended to his wife.
"Before the prize-winning work that the Karles pursued with Hauptman in the 1950s, scientists could discern molecular structure only through the time-consuming and painstaking process of X-ray crystallography, in which X-rays were reflected off a molecule and their patterns then examined.
For many years, the method languished, unnoticed by other scientists. “It was Isabella’s work that drew attention to its usefulness,” according to a tribute to the couple by the NRL, which credited her with preparing the way for “the analysis and publication of the molecular structures of many thousands of complicated molecules annually.”
Among those molecules were toxins and antitoxins; drugs to treat bacterial infections, malaria and heart ailments; anticarcinogens; and explosives.
“It is almost impossible to give an example in the field of chemistry where this method is not being used,” a judge for the Nobel Prize remarked when Jerome Karle’s award was announced."
Awards and Honors
1988: Gregori Aminoff Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
1993: Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science
↑ "United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X7SL-2CJ : accessed 24 October 2017), Isabel Lugoski in household of Zigmond Lugoski, Detroit (Districts 0751-0879), Wayne, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 823, sheet 39A, line 29, family 30, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1066; FHL microfilm 2,340,801.
↑ "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KHSJ-CNF : accessed 24 October 2017), Isabella H Lugoski in household of Sigmond Lugoski, Ward 21, Detroit, Detroit City, Wayne, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 84-1505, sheet 9B, line 50, family 181, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1885.