Florence Meier Chase
Tumble Through the Trapdoor
It was on this day in 1978 that the botanist Florence Meier Chase died.
Meier studied the relationship between sunlight and algae at the Radiation Biology Laboratory (RBL), a part of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory(SAO).
Meier and her fellow botanists used rooms in the tower and basement of the Smithsonian Castle for their research.
"In the early days, scientists traveled between floors of the tower by climbing up and down a ladder through a trapdoor, often carrying trays of specimens or scientific equipment. In 1929, a very small elevator was installed in the tower to make the trip safer and easier."
In 1937, on Valentine's Day, Meier was giving people a tour around the Smithsonian Castle. She was demonstrating how she and her group used the ladders and trapdoors to get around. As the tour wrapped up, Meier let the group take the elevator down as there wasn't enough room for her. As the elevator door closed, Meier waved goodbye, stepped backward, forgot that the trap door was left open, and fell through to the floor below, breaking her back.
While she was recovering at Garfield Memorial Hospital, her doctor was Dr. William Wiley Chase, the head of the surgery department. They married in 1939.
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