Women in History – 03 March

Sameera Moussa (March 3, 1917 – August 5, 1952) was an Egyptian nuclear physicist who held a doctorate in atomic radiation and worked to make the medical use of nuclear technology affordable to all.

She organized the Atomic Energy for Peace Conference and sponsored a call for setting an international conference under the banner “Atoms for Peace”. The conference made a number of recommendations for setting up a committee to protect against nuclear hazards, for which she strongly advocated. Moussa also volunteered to help treat cancer patients at various hospitals especially since her mother went through a fierce battle against this disease.

Moussa was born in Egypt. Her mother died of cancer .In 1939, Moussa obtained a BSc in radiology with first class honors after researching the effects of X-ray radiation on various materials. Afterwards, she became the first assistant professor at the same faculty and the first woman to hold a university post.

Moussa believed in “Atoms for Peace” and said “I’ll make nuclear treatment as available and as cheap as Aspirin“.

She turned down several offers that required her to live in the United States and to be granted the American citizenship saying “Egypt, my dear homeland, is waiting for me”.

In recognition of her pioneering nuclear research, she was given permission to visit the secret US atomic facilities. The visit raised vehement debate in United States academic and scientific circles since Moussa was the first alien to have access to such facilities.

On August 5, 1952 after her first visit to America she intended to return home, but she was invited on a trip. On the way, the car fell from a height of 40 feet, which killed her immediately. The mystery of the accident, since the invitation to California was shown to be untrue later on, besides the vanishing of the car driver who jumped from the car just before it rushed down, made some people believe it was a planned assassination.