History’s Hidden Heroes: Kerry Sieh

photo of Kerry SiehQuick!  Think of a LGBT scientist!  I drew a blank at Alan Turing.  But of course history is full of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender scientists.  Historically, the sexual orientations of some scientists, as with other historical figures, is a matter of conjecture – in some case conjuncture backed by a lot of evidence, in some case not so much.  Historical scientists who were likely to be either gay or bi-sexual include Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Francis Bacon, and Alexander von Humbolt.

Today scientists, especially those in the US, are more likely to be open about their orientation.  Kerry Sieh is an openly gay scientist who studies geology and seismology.  Dr. Sieh did most of his work in California before being offered a position as Director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore.  Dr. Sieh was excited about the post but had to establish that he would be able to live openly as a gay man in a country where a law criminalizing homosexuality is still on the books.  ‘I’m no crusader, but I’m going to be myself…I would not have come here if my partner could not have come with me, ” he told Straits Times in 2008.

Dr. Sieh focuses his work on earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, with a goal of creating practical plans and solutions to reduce suffering in case of disaster.  He invented the field of paleosiesmology, which involves using geologic layers and formations to understand active faults.  In Asia, he has studied the Sunda megathrust, an undersea fault line, to predict future quakes and tsunamis.

For more information about Dr. Sieh, you can check out this article “Senior Scientists enjoy New Latitude at Singapore Earth-Science Center”.  This was my major source for this blog entry.  I found more details about his work at the Nanyang Technical University webpage.