Here are three national leaders who specialized in chemistry.  Two of them are the first female leaders of their countries.  The third is a man.  That is unremarkable, and you will probably know why.

1. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany:  Merkel earned a PhD in quantum chemistry in 1978 from the German Academy of Sciences in East Berlin.  She stayed on as a research associate (and published seven papers) until her 1990 election as a party spokesperson.  Her crossover to politics came at a time of major changes in Germany:  the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and Germany reunified in 1990.  Fifteen years later, Merkel became Germany’s first female Chancellor—and in 2017, she will likely run for her fourth consecutive term.  Madam Chancellor’s second husband is a professor of quantum chemistry at Berlin’s Humboldt University.


2. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:  Thatcher earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Oxford in 1947.  Her undergraduate research, on X-ray crystallography of an antibiotic, was supervised by future Nobel Prize winner Dorothy Hodgkin.  Thatcher went on to work for British Xylonite Plastics and later J. Lyons & Co., merchants of cakes, biscuits and tea.  Next, she studied tax law and became a barrister in 1953.  Thatcher realized her longtime political ambitions and won a seat in the Parliament in 1959.  Twenty years later, Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and she held the position until 1990.  The Iron Lady passed away in 2013.


3.  Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City:  The current Pope was a chemical technologist at Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory in Buenos Aires, following his graduation from a technical secondary school.  He became the first non-European Pope in 2013.  In the intervening years, he worked as a bar bouncer and a janitor—and then became a priest, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and a cardinal.


In the interest of maintaining a politically neutered blog, this is the end.  The preceding three persons were chemists who went on to become heads of state.





Pope Francis