Tuesday, October 9, 2018

On-going Series of Women in STEM for Ada Lovelace Day Throughout History

The earliest recorded woman in science was a woman of colour and one of the earliest known person in STEM at all. Merit Ptah ("beloved of [the god] Ptah") lived circa 2700 BCE and was chief physician of the pharoah's court, implying not only that she was recognized as a doctor, who attended the pharoah, but that she trained and supervised other doctors, during the Second or Third Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.
Merit Ptah, Chief Physician, linocut by Ele Willoughby, 11" x 14", 2018

Hypatia, the first recorded female mathematician lived in the 3rd century AD in Alexandria, Egypt, which was part of the Roman Empire. She was born at some time between about 350 and 370 and died in 415 C.E. She was the head of the Platonist school, where she taught philosophy, astronomy and mathematics. She believed in empiricism and natural law. She was the last librarian of the famed Library of Alexandria in the Museum of Alexandria, largest and most significant library of the ancient world. She was the daughter of a famous mathematician, Theon Alexandricus (ca. 335–405), with whom she worked and published edited versions of Classical texts in mathematics. She also pursued her education in Athens and Italy before returning to Alexandria and becoming the head of the Platonist school. It is known that she wrote commentaries on 13-volume Arithmetica by Diophantus, the Conics of Apollonius, and edited Ptolemy's Almagest and on Euclid's Elements. She charted heavenly bodies. She built and instructed her pupils in the design and use of the astrolabe, and likely made improvements to it.

Hypatia, linocut 12" x 12" by Ele Willoughby, 2012

Margaret Lucas Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1623 – 1673), 17th-century English aristocrat, philosopher, poet, scientist, fiction-writer, and playwright shown with her imaginary world from her strange science fiction novel 'The Blazing World' which she appended to her scientific treatise 'Observations upon Experimental Philosophy'.

Margaret Cavendish and the Blazing World linocut 11" x 14", 2018, by Ele Willoughby

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), was the leading entomologist of her day, traveller and scientific illustrator. She is shown complete with pomegranate branch and the life cycle of a morpho butterfly from caterpillar, to chrysalis in its cocoon to butterfly, inspired by her famous work 'Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium' - a process she discovered then carefully documented and explained.

Maria Sibylla Merian, 11" x 14" linocut by Ele Willoughby, 2015
German-born Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848), while overshadowed by her brother William (who discovered Uranus, amongst his other astronomical accomplishments), was a real pioneer as a woman in astronomy and made her own important contributions. In fact, she became the first salaried female scientist, when King George III hired her to assist her brother, at a time when there were few professional scientists anywhere. Hers was a real life sort of scientific Cinderella story; deemed unmarriageable, since a childhood bout of typhus stunted her growth, her mother thought she should train to be a servant but William managed to rescue his younger sister from their mother's clutches, under the pretext that she might have the voice to be a solo singer in Handel's oratorios, as she too was a natural musician. Of course, he also wanted a woman to manage his bachelor household. Meanwhile, he developed a real passion for astronomy and soon, so did his sister. She discovered 11 nebulae (2 of which turned out to be galaxies) which were previously unknown! She also found 8 or 9 comets, as well as making and sharing observations of comets discovered by others. She worked to complete and publish her brother's star charts after his death.
Caroline Herschel
Caroline Herschel, linocut by Ele Willoughby, 2014

Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier (1758 – 1836) was the wife of Antoine Lavoisier, who is often referred to as the 'father' of modern chemistry, without any reference to his wife. Marie-Anne became interested in her husband's scientific pursuits and soon joined him in the lab. She received formal training in the field from his friends and colleagues Jean Baptiste Michel Bucquet and Philippe Gingembre. Marie-Anne also famously hosted scientific salons with luminaries of the day and was taught. Jacques Louis David painted his Portrait of Anoine-Laurent Lavoisier and his wife in 1788. He also trained Marie-Anne Paulze in drawing and engraving, allowing her to accurately illustrate their experiements. And she most definitely appears in her own drawings and engravings documenting their work.

Antoine et Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier, linocut with collaged washi,
2018 by Ele Willoughby

Mary Anning (1799 – 1847) was the wrong class, the wrong sex and even the wrong religious denomination to gain the education, opportunity to work and communicate her results or to garner any respect as a pioneering paleontologist. Further, during her lifetime most people in Britain and elsewhere thought the Earth was a mere few thousand years old, based on a very literal interpretation of the Bible and found the idea of extinction did not fit in with the story of creation. Yet, her fossil discoveries, meticulous collection, documentation and independent work to fully understand the anatomy of the amazing Jurassic creatures she encountered in famed Blue Lias cliffs of Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, were so undeniable that she gained the recognition, admiration and respect of the paleontologists of the day. She made her first significant find, the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified, with her brother Joseph when she was only 12 years old. Her research showed that belemnite fossils contained fossilised ink sacs like those of modern cephalopods. She was also the first to recognize that coprolites, known as bezoar stones at the time, were fossilised... well, animal droppings (feces). While this sounds distinctly unglamorous, the study of coprolites pioneered by Anning and Buckland were vital to understanding ancient ecosystems. Her friend Henry De la Beche painted the first widely circulated representation of a prehistoric (deep time) scene, based on her finds, and he sold prints to benefit her financially.
Mary Anning
Mary Anning, linocut by Ele Willoughby

Anna Atkins (1799-1871), née Children, was an English botanist and photographer. She is the first person to have illustrated a book using photographs, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in October 1843. Note that: not the first woman, the first person. She lived at a time when it was possible to be a self-trained scientist, especially if you were middle or upper class and received an education and the financial freedom to devote your time to pursue your subject. She was raised and instructed by her father, a naturalist, and her social circle included those who were developing (no pun intended) the latest, brand new photographic technology. So, she was at the right place at the right time. But that doesn't take away from the fact that she had the knowledge, skill, insight and ability to immediately see the utility of the method for descriptive science and to document a specific field of sub-field of botany, with her collection of the algae (seaweeds) of Britain. I think this should be understood as equivalent to a modern-day scientist keeping abreast of other fields of study and rapidly mastering a new high-tech tool to apply it to her field. Even William Henry Fox Talbot, who who invented the salted paper and calotype processes, precursors to modern photographic methods, was not able to publish The Pencil of Nature the first commercially printed photographic book, until eight months after she produced Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. 

This is a portrait of English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins (1799-1871), née Children. It combines both a hand-carved lino block portrait in dark silver ink, and a screenprint of the silhouette of fern leaves in cobalt blue ink, mimicking the cyanotypes she was known for. It is printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, 11" x 14" (28 cm x 35.6 cm). (c) Ele Willoughby, 2015

Today is named in honour of Countess, Lady Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), who published the first computer program. She worked together with Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine (the first - analogue! - computers), correcting his notes on how to calculate Bernoulli Numbers with the Analytical Engine. More importantly, she (a great communicator, daughter of mad, bad and dangerous to know poet Lord Byron) was able to understand and explain the workings of the analytical engine and the potential of computing machines. Her comments seem visionary to the modern reader. Babbage called her the Enchantress of Numbers.

Ada Lovelace linocut by Ele Willoughby

Founder of modern nursing, social reformer, statistician, data visualization innovator and writer Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) earned the nickname "The Lady with the Lamp" during the Crimean War, from a phrase used by The Times, describing her as a “ministering angel” making her solitary rounds of the hospital at night with “a little lamp in her hand”. Behind Nightingale is her own ‘Diagram of Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East’ plotted as a polar area diagram – her own statistical and data visualization innovation, sometimes called a Nightingale Rose Diagram. It illustrates the causes of death in the military hospital she managed during the Crimean War. When she researched the causes of mortality, looking back at the data, she saw clearly that the lack of hygiene was a far greater risk to soldiers’ lives than being wounded. Her statistics and clear data visualization saved lives.

Florence Nightingale portrait
Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910), nursing, statistics and data visualization pioneer, linocut by Ele Willoughby

Great Russian mathematician and writer, Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevski (1850-1891), is also known as Sofie or Sonya, her last name has been transliterated from the Cyrillic Со́фья Васи́льевна Ковале́вска in a variety of ways, including Kovalevskaya and Kowalevski. Sofia's contributions to analysis, differential equations and mechanics include the Cauchy-Kovalevski theorem and the famed Kovalevski top (well, famed in certain circles, no pun intended).  We now know there are only three fully integrable cases of rigid body motion and her solution ranks with those of mathematical luminaries Euler and Lagrange. She was the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe or to serve as editor of a major scientific journal. She is also remembered for her contributions to Russian literature. All of this despite living when women were still barred from attending university. Her accomplishments were tremendous in her short but astonishing life.
Sofia Kovalevski linocut
Sofia Kovalevski, linocut by Ele Willoughby, 2014

My portrait of Marie Skłodowska-Curie (1867 – 1934) shows the famous Polish-born, naturalized-French physicist and chemist at work in her lab. The contents of her lab glassware appropriately glow-in-the-dark! She was one of the pioneers who helped explain radioactivity, a term she coined. She was the one who first developed a means of isolating radioactive isotopes and discovered not one, but two new elements: polonium (named for her native country) and radium. She also pioneered radioactive medicine, proposing the treatment of tumors with radioactivity. She founded medical research centres, the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw which are still active today. She created the first field radiology centres during World War I. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel prize, the only woman to ever win TWO Nobel prizes, and the only person ever to win in two different sciences: physics and chemistry!

Marie Curie linocut glows in the dark
Marie Skłodowska-Curie (1867 – 1934), physicist, chemist, double Nobel Laureate
Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868- 1921) was an American astronomer. In her day, women scientists were regularly hired to do menial chores. She was hired to count images on photographic plates as a "computer". In studying these plates, in 1908 she was able to deduce a ground-breaking theory, which allowed Hubble's later insight about the age and expansion of the universe. Her period-luminosity relation for Cepheid variable stars radically changed modern astronomy, an accomplishment for which she received little recognition during her lifetime.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt
Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868 – 1921), astronomer whose work set the scale of our Universe

Canadian medical researcher Maud Menten (1870-1960) has been called the "grandmother of biochemistry" and "a radical feminist 1920s flapper," and a "petite dynamo." Not only was she an author of Michaelis-Menten equation for enzyme kinetics (like the plot in indigo in my portrait), she invented the azo-dye coupling for alkaline phosphatase, the first example of enzyme histochemistry,  still used in histochemistry imaging of tissues today (which inspired the histology background of the portrait), and she also performed the first electrophoretic separation of blood haemoglobin in 1944!

Maud Menten, linocut 9.25" x 12.5" by Ele Willoughby, 2018
Physicist Harriet Brooks (1876 - 1933) shows her and her discovery of atomic recoil. Brooks also discovered Radon and measured its atomic mass and half-life. Her graduate supervisor and future Nobel laureate Ernest Rutherford also credited her with first recognizing that radioactive elements could undergo chains of transmutations into a series of new elements. He stated that she was second only to Marie Curie in her capacity for and ability as a radioactivity researcher. During her extraordinary 6 year career in physics she worked with 3 Nobel laureates (Rutherford, Thomson and Curie) and made these fundamental contributions to the new field of nuclear physics!

Harriet Brooks, linocut 9.25" x 12.5" by Ele Willoughby, 2018

Physicist Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968) was the first person to provide a theoretical explanation for nuclear fission and was an integral member of the experimental team as well (she collaborated with ollaborated with chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Straßmann), though her gender and her heritage interfered with her being properly acknowledged in late 30s Germany. Only Hahn was awarded the Nobel for this work. She received the Max Planck Medal of the German Physics Society in 1949. Meitner was nominated to receive the Nobel prize three times. In 1966 Hahn, Fritz Straßmann and Meitner together were awarded the Enrico Fermi Award. In 1997, the element 109 was named meitnerium in her honour. Today the Hahn-Meitner Institut in Berlin, craters on the Moon and on Venus, and a main-belt asteroid are all named in her honour.
Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968) and Nuclear Fission, linocut by Ele Willoughby
Geologist and paleontologist Alice Wilson (1881-1964) mapped the entire Ottawa-St Larence Valley region by herself, since she was barred from doing fieldwork with men, was the first female Canadian geologist, despite ill-health and a frail constitution. Her research interests focused on fossil invertebrates from the Paleozoic era (252–541 million years ago) from across Canada, and from the Ordovician era (444–485 million years ago) in her own backyard in Ontario and Quebec as well as Ordovician fauna from the Rockies and Arctic. She studied stratigraphy in Ontario and Quebec. Over the course of 50 years, she became an authority on fossils and rocks of the Ottawa - St. Lawrence Valley, as a direct response to the sexist limitations placed upon her.

Alice Wilson, linocut on collaged washi papers, 11" x 14" by Ele Willoughby, 2018

Emmy Noether (1882-1935) was one of the greatest 20th century mathematicians and Noether's Theorem is one of the most fundamental and profound theories in physics.
Emmy Noether, linocut, 11" x 14", Ele Willoughby, 2018

Inge Lehmann (1888-1993) was a pioneer woman in science, a brilliant seismologist and lived to be 104. In 1936 she wrote an earth-shattering paper, with an astonishingly succinct title: P' in which she laid out her arguments supporting her discovery of the inner core of the earth. She later also discovered a discontinuity in the mantle (confusingly called the Lehmann discontinuity). When she received the Bowie medal in 1971 (she was the first woman to receive the highest honour of the American Geophysical Union), her citation noted that the "Lehmann discontinuity was discovered through exacting scrutiny of seismic records by a master of a black art for which no amount of computerization is likely to be a complete substitute..."

Inge Lehmann, linocut on Japanese washi, 8" x 8" by Ele Willoughby
Alice Augusta Ball (1892 - 1916) was a chemist who discovered the first effective treatment for leprosy (or Hansen's disease) a disfiguring disease which has afflicted people for millenia. Physician Dr. Harry T. Hollmann of the Kalihi Hospital in Hawai'i and acting director of the Kalihi leprosy clinic, was unsatisfied with using chaulmoogra oil in its natural form to treat leprosy patients and wanted to isolate the active ingredients. He recruited the graduate student Ball to help. Within a year, she was able to do what chemists and pharmacologists had been unable to do for centuries. She not only isolated the active ingredients but convert them to a form which could be circulated in the body. My print shows how she formed the ethyl ester of chaulmoogric acid (the acid plus alcohol produces the ethyl ester with water).
Alice Ball, 11" x 14", linocut by Ele Willoughby, 2018, shows the chemist, branches of the chaulmoogra tree and
how she formed the ethyl ester of chaulmoogric acid (the acid plus alcohol produces the ethyl ester with water)
Mary Golda Ross (1908-2008) was a mathematician, aeronautical engineer, philanthropist and Cherokee “hidden figure” of the space race. Lockheed Martin hired her as mathematician in 1942, troubleshooting the P-38 Lighting fighter plane (as shown). She knew already that her interest was in interplanetary flight, but didn’t mention it in 1942 for fear that her credibility would be questioned, but she was indeed farsighted. After the war Lockheed Martin sent her to UCLA to study engineering and celestial mechanics. She was one of the 40 engineers selected to start Skunk Works, their Advanced Development Program, an in-house top-secret think tank. She was the only woman and only Indigenous person and much of her work there remains classified! It included preliminary design concepts for interplanetary travel, crewed and uncrewed space flights and the earliest plans for orbiting satellites. She worked on the Agena rocket, so important to the Apollo moon mission (shown) and was an author of the NASA Flight Handbook Vol. III about flight to Mars and Venus.
Mary Golda Ross, linocut handprinted on Japanese kozo paper, 11" x 14", 2018 by Ele Willoughby

Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997, Chinese-born American physicist, whose nicknames included the “First Lady of Physics”, “Chinese Marie Curie,” and “Madame Wu”) came up with a truly beautiful experiment to test whether the weak force conserves parity. For their theoretical work on the question of parity in the physics of subatomic particles, Lee and Yang were quickly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1957; the Nobel committee neglected to include Wu.
Mme Wu
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) and the Violation of Parity, linocut by Ele Willoughby

Hedy Lamarr (1914 –  2000), best known as a star of Hollywood's Golden Age was born Hedwig Keisler, escaped Austria during WWII and her arms-dealer husband and put her inside knowledge to work for the Allied forces.  She knew that torpedoes were guided by radio signals, of a single frequency, which were vulnerable to interference or "jamming". She had the idea that if multiple frequencies were employed, like a radio station which varied its channel unpredictably, it would not be possible for the enemy to find and interfere with the signal. This way the signal could be encoded across a broad spectrum. She met her neighbour, the avant-guard musician and composer George Antheil at a party. Together they developed Hedy's frequency-hopping idea, encorporating George's technology for synchronizing pianolas, and on the 11th of August, 1942, US Patent Number 2,292,387 for the "Secret Communications System." Lamarr's and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as Bluetooth, COFDM (used in Wi-Fi network connections), CDMA (used in some cordless and wireless telephones) and 4G LTE communications. You are probably using a device right now which relies on these ideas.
Hedy Lamarr linocut
Frequency-hopping with Hedwig Keisler, aka Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000), linocut by Ele Willoughby

Irene Ayako Uchida (1917-2013) was a geneticist and cytologist who discovered the risk posed to future offspring due to abdominal x-rays on their pregnant mothers. She was a world expert in Down syndrome, President of the American Society of Human Genetics, served on the Science Council of Canada, received honourary degrees from McMaster and Western universities, was named Woman of the Century 1867-1967 by the National Council of Jewish Women, in Manitoba, an Officer of the Order of Canada, had a lifelong love of language and grammar, and a wry sense of humour.

Irene Ayako Uchida, Linocut, 9.25" x 12.5", 2018 by Ele Willoughby
My linocut portrait of Canadian geneticist Irene Ayako Uchida (1917-2013) is hand printed on 9.25" x 12.5" Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. Uchida is shown surrounded by chromosones, with anomalies (shown with pink arrows) due to radiation exposure, based on one of her research papers. A strand of DNA is hidden in the image (as her watchband).

American geologist and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp (1920-2006), made pioneering, thorough and complete ocean floor maps made with her partner in science Bruce Heezen which revealed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The mid-ocean ridge itself, based on their 1957 physiographic map, is illustrated behind her, along with the sort of echo sounder or precision depth recorder tracks she used, in front of her.  This work was integral to the Plate Tectonics revolution in earth science.

Marie Tharp and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Linocut
Marie Tharp and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,
9" x 12" linocut on Japanese paper, by Ele Willoughby, 2015

Beatrice "Trixie" Helen Worsley (1921-1972) is believed to have earned the very first doctorate in computer science, supervised by Douglas Hartree and Alan Turing at Cambridge, set the WWII Wrens' record for time at sea, at 150 days, and was the first female computer scientist in Canada.

Trixie Worsley, linocut 11" x 14" by Ele Willoughby, 2018

Ursula Franklin (1921 – 2016) represented not only excellence in science and engineering, but she was a great, perhaps even visionary, thinker on the very role of technology in our society, as well as a fearless and tireless advocate for women in STEM, peace and social justice. Her research interests and achievements were clearly guided by her principles, including gathering evidence of the harmful health effects of radiation from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons to or her work on the political and societal impacts of support of the technologies and their use. She was also a pioneer in archeometry: the application of material science to archeology.

Ursula Franklin, linocut, 11" x 14" by Ele Willoughby, 2016

Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (born 1943) was just a graduate student in 1967 when she discovered the first radio pulsar (or pulsating star), a highly magnetized, rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation (light in the radio frequency band) can only be observed when the star is point towards us; so, like the light from a distant lighthouse, it appears to pulse at a precise frequency. The 1968 paper announcing this discovery in Nature has five authors, lead by Hewish, followed by Jocelyn Bell. In 1974, Hewish won the Nobel Prize for this discovery, along with fellow radioastronomer Martin Ryle). Jocelyn Bell was not included as it was assumed that the "senior man" was responsible for the work. Jocelyn Bell Burnell has gone one to a very distinguished career in astrophysics. She became the first female president of the Institude of Physics and of the Royal Society of Edinburg. She helped set up the Athena Swan programme to support UK women in science. In 2018 she was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of pulsars and lifetime of leadership in science. She is donating the award money to the Institute of Physics for PhD scolarships for underrepresented people including women, ethnic minorities and refugee students in physics!
Jocelyn Bell and the LGM-1
Jocelyn Bell (Burnell) (born 1943) and the LGM-1, astrophysicist who discovered pulsars, linocut by Ele Willoughby

Mae Carol Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is a physician who became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour for NASA, on September 12, 1992. She also has a B.S. in chemical engineering, served in the Peace Corps, is a dancer and choreographer, formed and runs her own company researching the application of technology to daily life, and even appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Mae Jemison linocut
Mae Jemison, linocut on Japanese kozo paper, 9.25" by 12.5" (23.5 cm by 32 cm) in an edition of eight by Ele Willoughby, 2014

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