Friday, March 27, 2009

Thank You, Ada Lovelace

Some time between news of the day in parliament and 6am, BBC Radio Four becomes World News. If I am awake, I can learn about the parts of the world that are generally overlooked. I like that time of night. The peace of it and the sense of a trip to parts unknown. I usually doze in and out of sleep so I may be in Mozambique and then wake later to find myself in the middle of a panel program discussing ethics or cultural history. Some days ago I heard a blurb about Ada Lovelace day. I meant to write about it when I woke, but it fell into a dream fragment and nestled there until something woke me again. After Ada came Hypatia.

Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and influential in the early genesis of what has now become computer science. Ada Lovelace day was an effort to celebrate women in engineering and science who had influenced us. I drifted off to sleep thinking of some. And then I forgot about it until I heard a discussion of the comparative philosophies of Plato and Aristotle (don't ask me anything about that...) I woke as they talked about a painting of mathematical worthies and in the middle was the only woman--Hypatia. So surely in the thousand years or so between Hypatia and Ada Lovelace there were other women scientists and engineers that slipped through the artist's brush or the biographer's pen. Do you have favourites? If so, celebrate Ada Lovelace Day (belatedly, I admit, but then women's history is often like that, isn't it?) by talking about them.

Here's a couple of mine--Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman to become a doctor. I read her story when I was about 8 or 9 in one of those blue-backed books of biographies. I also read about Knute Rockne, but never dreamed of becoming an athlete.

Marie Curie--being an experimental scientist was not an easy life and she paid a heavy price for her research.

Lisa Wenzler, molecular chemist and wise human being. She tried to teach me to ride the wave of corporate America. I didn't drown and in the process learned a lot--even a bit about molecules and science.

Susan Hinrichs. A quiet scholar who got her PhD in what is still a pretty male dominated field--computer science and makes her own way mixing family and career.

So who are some of your women in science, math, engineering?


At 8:39 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

My heroine is Henrietta Parker, Chemistry teacher at Shortridge High School. Sometimes she would be wearing a suit and on those days she attended a daytime meeting of the American Chemical Society. I thought it was neat that she kept up professionally. I was dimly aware that it was unusual for a woman to be teaching chemistry. I also admired her enthusiasum for her subject.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, I like her, too. Thanks for sharing her story here.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel honored to be mentioned with such great women. I log on every once in awhile and truly enjoy reading what you have to say - you have a gift for words. That is why my "ride the wave" helped you in this place where time and words were not as appreciated - Lisa

At 3:48 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Lisa, I am so glad you stopped by. I think of you often. Yes, "ride the wave" was just the right metaphor for me. Who knew where that wave would take me? I hope you and your family are all well. If you ever want to get away from it all, the latchkey is out. Amy can tell you what a wonderful part of the world this is (during the summer at any rate!). We can make house kid friendly or you can run away from it all and have a Highland retreat.


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