Archive for the 'Women in science' category

Michelson and Margarite

Apr 02 2010 Published by under History of science, Women in science

My recent posts on Ada Lovelace Day (here and here) not only drove home the point that there were even more historically important women scientists and mathematicians than I had optimistically imagined, but that the smartest male scientists of their eras appreciated their contributions and actively encouraged them.

I don't want to obsess over the approbation of the male scientists -- undeniably, the women's contributions stand out on their own.  Now that I've noticed it, though, I'm spotting other remarkable and little-remembered instances, and can't resist sharing.  These stories give me a little more faith in humanity, or at least the scientific community.

The story I want to tell in this post I came across in a biography of Albert A. Michelson (1852-1931) written by his daughter Dorothy Michelson Livingston: The Master of Light (Charles Scribner's Sons, NY, 1973).

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Some more women in science, and their appreciators

Mar 28 2010 Published by under History of science, Women in science

I thought, before this past week, that I appreciated quite well the important but often unacknowledged role that women have played in the history of science and mathematics.  It turns out that I've hardly scratched the surface of their contributions, which go back even further than I imagined.  Perhaps even more fascinating is the fact that a number of truly great male researchers realized the brilliance of these women, even if the bulk of the academic community did not.  As a supplement to my Ada Lovelace day post, I thought I'd present a little more musing on the role of women in science from the point of view of some of these researchers.

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Women published in the Royal Society, 1890-1930

I've been struggling to think of a woman scientist to profile for Ada Lovelace Day!  Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was a brilliant woman mathematician and arguably the first computer programmer, designing a program for Charles Babbage's (never constructed) Analytical Engine.  Ada Lovelace Day was started in 2009 to commemorate the accomplishments of women in science, and bloggers pledge to post on a science or tech heroine.

The trouble is that I don't know enough about any particular female scientist to comfortably blog about her!  I'm very eager to blog about Sofia Kovalevskaya, an amazing Russian mathematician, but don't know enough to add value beyond her Wikipedia article!  (That will be rectified next year, as I've ordered three books on Sofia: a biography, her memoirs, and her novel!)

I do read a lot of journals, however, and I've noticed that a lot of women make an appearance as authors starting in the late 1800s.  I've been downloading the papers of these authors from the Royal Society, and I thought it would be nice to briefly describe the women and the work of the era from roughly 1890 to 1930.  The list puts the lie to the misogynistic claim that women have no interest in science or have made no significant contributions -- especially since these papers appear before women even had equal voting rights to men in the U.K.! (Women's suffrage was fully granted in 1928.)

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