Sunday, December 30, 2018

Looking back at my art and science 2019

Antoine et Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier,
linocut with collaged washi,
2018 by Ele Willoughby
This year started with the end of our tenure running the Toronto Etsy Street Team gallery. Though this meant a great deal less time curating shows, I did make a move to show my art more in gallery shows, and sell through galleries and shops and less selling in person. Early in the year, I decided I would not participate in the One of a Kind Christmas Show. Selling art in person is tough to do; it's hard on your body to stand for long hours, fine art can be a harder sell than handmade goods which serve more than just an aesthetic purpose, and retailing anything can be gruelling - perhaps more so if it is your own creation. But, I am quite pleased that I did participate in a large number of artshows, a sold art in a variety of cities this year.

The first show for me this year was The Tarot Lovers: Works of Heart exhibition, which showed (and sold) at the Wellington County Museum and Archives. Curated by Shelley Carter, this show is one in a series she has organized with themes based on Tarot cards. I enjoyed the challenge of mixing those concepts with my ongoing works about the history of science, as an excuse to highlight the loving partnership of Antoine Lavoisier (26 August 1743 – 8 May 1794) and his wife Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier (20 January 1758 – 10 February 1836). Lavoisier is often referred to as the 'father' of modern chemistry, without any reference to his wife, and yet, as their official illustrator, she shows herself participating in his experiments and her skills as technical scientific translator allowed him to be up-to-date with chemistry across the Channel.

The next exhibit for which I submitted work was also an exchange of multiples: The Matchbook Project Cabinet of Curiosities.
 The works, along with my previously exhibited 'Imaginary Menagerie' prints were exhibited at Balzac's upstairs gallery for the Curious Fauna show in the fall, and I got my very own wunderkammer of beautiful and very varied artist-made matchboxes on the theme of cabinets of curiosities. This delightful project was curated and created by Hearyung Kim and Natalie Draz (whom I know from PROOF Studio Gallery).

In March I took part in Graven Feather's 'What the Fukushini' exhibit, submitting a version of my pink fairy armadillo linocut with collaged washi papers. This show, in partnership with The Paper Place, had artists make works on or with a specific washi paper. There was a great and delightful variety of works.

 Pink fairy armadillo, 11" x 13", 
multimedia by Ele Willoughby, 2018 (sold)

The most significant creation of new work for an exhibit was my five new portraits of Canadian women in STEM which were part of Curiosty Collider's show Interstitial: Science Innovations by Canadian Women, along with two other artists, this June in Vancouver! Interstitial was curated by Larissa Blokhuis, who makes gorgeous natural history inspired works, mainly in glass. I had previously made Ursula Franklin's portrait for the Phylo Project from Dave Ng and the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory (the science education facility within the Michael Smith Laboratories, UBC): a trading card game about Women in Science and Engineering! I added geologist Alice Wilson, physicist Harriet Brooks, computer scientist Trixie Worsley, medical researcher and biochemist Maud Menten and geneticist and Down syndrome expert Irene Ayako Uchida. Of these new five, I had only previously known Menten, despite having worked at the Geological Survey of Canada (like Wilson), being an alumni of U of T where Worsley had taught physics and computing and being a physicist by training (like Brooks). I was very glad to become involved with a great science/art organization and take part in this exhibit. Some artwork sold and many others in these editions have since - and it caused me to do some research specically on the history of Canadian women in STEM. This was revealing in and of itself, and I also gained some useful insights into how to find great stories about underappreciated women scientists.

Redbud and the Bees, 18" x 24",
linocut with collaged washi papers by Ele Willoughby, 2018
I made 'Redbud and the Bees' for  Creature Conserve  a non-profit outreach organization which brings artists and scientists together to "foster sustained and informed support for animal conservation," and their show Urban Wildlife: Learning to Co-exist. I remembered the urbanredbud citizen science project here in Toronto. Local U of T doctoral candidate Charlotte de Keyzer is working with the public to gather data on flowering times of Eastern redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) and their pollinators using bee nest boxes and traps. She made the suggestion of highlighting how the redbuds are moving into Toronto due to climate change and gardiners, and though popular with our local bees, they also attract a less popular new species the Eastern carpenter bee, who drill holes in wood to build nests. (Because the world is very small, it turns out de Keyser is the sister-in-law of my friend Laura Watt who you may know from Cubits). This show was curated by Creature Conserve founder, artist and scientist Lucy Spelman. It has been shown at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in July, and ArtProv Gallery in Rhode Island in September. This year, the exhibit will travel to other galleries in the US. Stay tuned for more details and chances to see these works!

This August, the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) staged an exhibit called 'Quantum' about the history of quatum mechanics. My friends at The Maker Bean (where you can now find my art, at both their Bloor and Dufferin and OSC locations) asked if I had an artwork about quatum mechanics. Indeed I do! So my portraits of physicists Bohr, Meitner, Roentgen, Wu and Curie, as well as Schroedinger's Cat, have all been on display at the OSC since then!

Me, at sea and two of my space-related prints:
my portraits of astronaut Mae Jemison and
Space Race engineer and mathematician Mary Golda Ross
This October, I was invited to give a talk as part of Science Literacy Week about my experience being an astronaut candidate for the Canadian Space Agency. Since astronauts are both scientists and science communicators, I took this as an opportunity to talk about both my research and sciart, together for the first time. I spoke at an event called "Space Mythbusters" at Gerstein Library along with a couple of other scientists. I told them what the astronaut selection process was really like and a bit about the mission that Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques has now begun, onboard the International Space Station. I also gave a version of this talk to a Boy Scout troup and am planning to do so at a couple of Toronto Public Libraries in 2019. Jesse Hildebrand spearheads Science Literacy Week, and he invited me to submit a proposal for Story Collider, a science-themed storyteller series and podcast. He hosts the Toronto series along with Misha Gajewski. So, I'm going to be doing that too, very early in the new year! Catch me on January 14th.

Eastern carpenter bee multimedia (sold)
Once again, I participated in Graven Feather's In the Round Show, this year hosted at PROOF Studio Gallery in the Distillery. I made a couple of round multimedia works based on my new bee and redbud lino blocks and one on the pink fairy armadillo. Like other years, I also participated in and helped organize the Toronto Etsy Street Team shows, including the Summer Market (or, this year, our first Etsy: Made in Canada Spring Show), Etsy: Made in Canada in September and our TEST Christmas Market, less than a week ago.  I also participated in Peggy Muddles' Scienterrific Pop-up at Tosca Terran's new Co:Lab space - in the same gallery where we had our year-long TEST Gallery pop-up! Likewise, I participated in Graven Feather's Holiday Market too. I was very pleased to also send off a selection of women scientist prints to Anthology boutique in Madison, Wisconsin.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, linocut, 12" x 12" by Ele Willoughby, 2018
As well as all these shows and works created with specific shows in mind, I also added to my on-going collection of scientist portraits with neuroscientist and artist in his own right, Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852 - 1934), 17th century scientist and scifi author Margaret Cavendish, ancient Egyptian court physician Merit Ptah (arguably the earliest recorded woman in science), pharmaceutical chemist Alice Ball (who made the first effective treatment for leprosy), mathematician and Space Race engineer Mary Golda Ross, and mathematician Emmy Noether. All of these involved research and writing on my part too. I also managed to complete my long-awaited chair reuphostery personal project, with involved printmaking, patchwork, applique and embroidery.

On a personal front, we managed to also sneak in trips to Sault Ste Marie for my family reunion and out to New Brunswick to see my husband's family. Amazingly, our - now five year old son - has been raised to be a good little traveller, and we managed to do this by car! My husband has some new, hard-won job security. Our son started French immersion in senior kindergarter this year. All of this is good.

When I looked back I see that in fact, a lot happened this year, and while it sort of feels sometimes that I have never accomplished enough, I have done rather a lot. I know that this year will bring more art shows, already in the planning and several more speaking engagements. I have several collections I am continuing to build and I would like to do more varied multimedia work. It isn't always straightforward to navigate a path as self-employed modern day Renaissance woman, but I think (I hope) that I'm on the right patch to carve out my own place at the intersection of art and science.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Minouette at the 5th Etsy: Made in Canada at MaRS Discovery District

Find me at Table 32 at Etsy: Made in Canada, September 29, 2018 (photo credit: Peter Power, 2016 show)
This Saturday, 10 to 6, find me selling at Table 32 for our 5th Annual Etsy: Made in Canada show! This year we have 130 fabulous handmade artists and artisans selling in the airy and history MaRS Discovery District Atrium. I will have a selection of my linocut prints and stuffed toys, with natural history, science prints, and hints of magic! This is always a great show and I hope you'll come join us. Stop by and say hello!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Mary Golda Ross, mathematician, aerospace engineer and the Space Race

Mary Golda Ross, linocut handprinted on Japanese kozo paper, 11" x 14", 2018 by Ele Willoughby
Today would have been Mary Golda Ross' 110 birthday. Known as Gold to her family, Mary Golda Ross (1908-2008) was a mathematician, aeronautical engineer, philanthropist and Cherokee “hidden figure” of the space race. Great-great-granddaughter of Chief John Ross, longest-serving chief of the Cherokee Nation who was forced to lead his people on the long march known as Trail of Tears, Ross attributed her success in math to the Cherokee tradition of encouraging equal education for boys and girls. She went to Northeastern State Teacher’s College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and earned a bachelor’s in math by the time she was 20. She taught science and math in rural schools through the Depression then got her Master’s at the University of Colorado, taking the opportunity to also take as many astronomy classes as she could. She aimed to put her education to work to try to help Indigenous people by working as a statistician with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, until she was reassigned as an advisor to girls at the Santa Fe Indian School.

When WWII broke out her father suggested she find a technical job in California. 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. As it turned out, 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! The engineers were working long hours, often to 11 pm at night, during the rush of the Space Race. Some of her work included
feasibility studies of ballistic missile and other defense systems. More interesting to me is her work on the pressure from ocean surface waves would effect submarine-launched vehicles; the effect of pressure from ocean surface waves on the seafloor was central to my own doctoral research. She worked on 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 in my portrait), the Polaris reentry vehicle and was an author of the NASA Flight Handbook Vol. III about flight to Mars and Venus.

After retiring in 1973, she devoted her time to recruiting and mentoring women and Indigenous people to engineering. At 96 she participated in the opening ceremony for the National Museum of the American Indian, wearing her first traditional Cherokee dress made by her niece, and she left the museum $400,000 upon her death.


Erin Blakemore, 'This Little-Known Math Genius Helped America Reach the Stars : It’s time for Mary Golda Ross to be remembered as an aerospace pioneer,', March 29, 2017

What's My Line? - Andy Griffith; Jack Lemmon [panel] (Jun 22, 1958)

Mary G. Ross, wikipedia, accessed July 11, 2018

Ariel Sandburg, Remembering Mary Golda Ross, The Michigan Engineer News Center, June 14, 2017

Cherokee Almanac: Mary Golda Ross, YouTube, June 13, 2015

Graham Lee Brewer, Rocket Woman, Oklahoma Today Magazine, July/August 2018

Kara Briggs, Cherokee rocket scientist leaves heavenly gift, Cherokee Pheonix, 12/18/2008 07:22 AM

Jenny Howard, Meet Mary Golda Ross, one of the First Native Americans in Engineering,, May 17, 2018, accessed July 11, 2018

"Mary G. Ross blazed a trail in the sky as a woman engineer in the space race, celebrated museum". The National Museum of the American Indian. 2009-10-07. Retrieved July 11, 2018

"The Cherokee Nation Remembers Mary Golda Ross, the First Woman Engineer for Lockheed". Cherokee Nation. 2008-05-13. Retrieved July 11, 2018

"Mary Golda "GOLD" Ross (1908 - 2008)". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved July 11, 2018.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Margaret Cavendish and The Blazing World

This is a linocut portrait of 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'. Cavendish is an odd addition to my collection of portraits of scientists, as a self-taught, die-hard royalist aristocrat, and firm anti-empiricist, but her publications on gender, power, manners, scientific method, and philosophy cannot be ignored. She wrote six books on Natural Philosophy and was the first woman admitted to a meeting of the Royal Society, and as such was a part of the contemporary world of science. Plus, this delightfully eccentric woman combined her natural philosophy with science fiction, and wrote herself into the story. The lino block portrait is handprinted on Japanese kozo (or mulberry paper) 11" x 14" with some collaged washi papers.

Margaret Cavendish and the Blazing World linocut 11" x 14", 2018, by Ele Willoughby
Margaret was born the youngest of eight children of Thomas Lucas, a wealthy aristocrat and royalist who died when she was two. She spent a lot of time with her siblings and had no real education, though she had access to scholarly libraries and she began writing at a young age, at a time when this was considered quite unusual for a woman. She also learned from her brother John, a philosopher and natural philosopher and founding member of the Royal Society. Margaret was unusual in many ways and full of contradictions. She was bashful yet flirtatious, accused of using speech full of 'oaths and obscenity' yet concerned about decorum and propriety, fame-seeking and ambitious,  society phenomenon considered to bold for a woman, proto-feminist yet an "arch-conservative" monarchist. In 1641, the royalist Lucas family were attacked by the Puritan neighbours and fled to Oxford where King Charles I held his court. Left without a dowry, she convinced her mother and Elizabeth Leighton Lucas to let her become one of Queen's Ladies-in-Waiting (to Queen Henrietta Maria the Catholic wife of the soon to be executed King Charles I, known at the time as 'Queen Mary')  in 1643 and then accompanied her upon her exile to France in 1644 (during the First English Civil War). This was a move she regretted. She was too shy to speak much and was mistaken for a fool, but she preferred this to risking being found wanton or rude. She suffered from what she called melancholia. She wanted to quit but her mother convinced her this would be disgraceful and to stay for two years, until such time as she married William Cavendish, then Marquis of Newcastle, later named Duke. A widower 30 years her senior, William Cavendish seems to have been a remarkably good match for her, and both of them wrote about their love for and pride in the other. William reportedly liked her bashfulness and became her writing tutor, supported her writing, paid for her work to be published and defended her when contemporaries doubted her authorship. He was her great supporter and defender, a patron of the arts and brother to noted scholar Charles Cavendish. Margaret was unable to conceive a child (though William had two sons from his first marriage). Without children or an estate, Margaret filled her time writing. Margaret's most successful publication was her biography of her husband, The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince William Cavendishe.

As a 'royalist delinquent' (a Royalist who fought against Parliament during the English Civil War) her husband's estate was sequestered by parliament and was to be sold. She tried returning to England with her brother-in-law to benefit from the sale, but was denied and returned to France after a year and a half to be with her husband. In 1660, with the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy, Margaret and William were able to return to England and ultimately settled in Welbeck, where Margaret worked on publishing her writing and increasing her knowledge and skills.

Margaret Cavendish by Pieter Louis van Schuppen, c. 1655-1658. Frontispiece to
Grounds of Natural Philosophy, London 1668.
At a time when women published anonymously, if at all, Cavendish published over a dozen works in her own name. She choose to reinvent herself through fashion, seeking to be and look unique arguing that clothes oppressed women. She wrote a memoir to ensure later generations would have a true account of her lineage and life and in her bid to achieve everlasting fame. She wrote about natural philosophy, atoms, nature personified, macro and microcosms, other worlds, death, battle, hunting, love, honour, employing poetry, prose, epistles and plays. She was one of the earliest advocates for animals and opponents of animal testing. Her writing was defensive, excusing her errors as due to her youth and ignorance, imploring detractors to keep silence, and nonetheless asking that if her writing was successful that she benefit and gain fame for it. Between her being a female author, woman engaged with science, her eccentricities and theatrical dress-sense, she was nicknamed "Mad Marge" by contemporaries, but along with her detractors, she had her supporters and she was taken seriously enough to be the first woman invited to attend meeting of the Royal Society.

In 1666 she wrote Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. Philosophically, she rejected Aristotle and favoured the Stoics. She argued against Cartesian dualism. She had no education in science or natural philosophy, though her brother was a founder of the Royal Society, her interest was supported by her husband and brother-in-law, and she socialized with her husband's tutor Thomas Hobbes. Like Hobbes, she rejected the idea of incorporeal souls. She thought minds are material and matter could think. Unlike Hobbes, she envisioned a vitalistic nor mechanistic world. While in France they gathered an intellectual circle (known as the Cavendish or Newcastle circle) which included English philosopher Thomas Hobbes,  Henry More, and natural philosopher Kenelm Digby and Walter Charleton, and French philosophers and mathematician René Descartes, Pierre Gassendi  and Marin Mersenne. This circle in turn was in communication with fellow intellectuals throughout Europe. She herself corresponded with physicist Christiaan Huygens, philosopher  and Joseph Glanvill and botanist John Evelyn. She chose to engage with and write about the science and scientists of her time to the best of her abilities. She argued strongly for the use of clear and plain English when writing about science and complained that natural philosophy contained difficult words and unfamiliar expressions. She chose to avoid such writing in her desire to communicate clearly and broadly. Appended to this work was one of the earliest science fiction novels, a sort of imaginative complement to the science: The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World, better known as The Blazing World, a fantasy, utopian satire.

The story tells of a young woman from the Kingdom of Esfi, who is kinapped by pirates and then escapes to another world via a portal at the North Pole. This other world is called the Blazing World and is inhabited by animal-people (bird-men, fish-men, fox-men, bear-men, ape-men, ant-men, fly-men, worm-men, louse-me and more) obsessed with telescopes and microscopes, a means by which Cavendish satirizes the Royal Society and the work of Robert Hooke (who had recently published his Micrographia). The lady becomes the Empress by marriage there. As Empress she grows frustrated with their use of telescopes since they seem to only be a cause of arguments and first bans them but relents and orders them to keep them in their schools, rather than introduce any "disturbances in State, or Government." She is likewise underwhelmed by their microscopic observations and considers these technological tools "false informers". The Empress seeks a scribe to read her write her own religious texts. She rejects famous philosophers Aristotle, Pythagoras, Plato, Galileo or Hobbes, who would be too “self-conceited”  to agree and develops a telepathic relationship mediated by spirits with none other than... Margaret Cavendish! The Duchess and Empress become platonic lovers and travel to each other's worlds. Like later science fiction, the Blazing World includes some imagined technology and science which can appear far-sighted in hindsight, like the air-powered engines, flying machines, elaborate submarines (which could remotely measure ocean depth) or the concept of an infinite universe. But, it also contains common contemporary misconceptions like the idea that insects are spontaneously generated or that alchemy might work. The work also features without judgment homosexuality, androgyny and polyamory. My print shows the Empress (the only personnage in the Blazing World allowed to wear gold) surrounded by the fish, ape, birds, bears, worm, and fly-men scholars, complete with telescope, microscope and a louse-man in a submarine.

She challenged the idea of man's dominion over nature and argued that animals possessed intelligence. She employed the sceptical tools of science to attack natural philosophy and question its methods as well as argue for recognition of women's intellectual capacity. She attacked the empirical methods of Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle and once referred to such experimentalists as “Boys that play with watry Bubbles.” She attacked Descartes' flawed vortex theory. She attacked male-dominated science in general. She conceived that shape plays a role in the reaction of atoms - an idea more familiar to modern-day scientists than her contemporaries (though her version of atomic theory also combined some medieval ideas about the elements). She made publications on the contemporary concepts of atomic theory, magnetism and heat. She also combined speculation and fantasy with some of her confused ideas about natural philosophy, but her output was no more muddled than that of male contemporaries considered scientific prodigies. Unlike her contemporaries, her ideas about atoms had no requirement for God or theology to explain the world, and in fact her ideas of infinite populated words both without and within (for instance on a lady's earring) were a bit dangerous in her time. Though I am an experimentalist and fan of Hooke and her think her radical scepticism is misplaced, I believe that questioning the limits of empirical methods and knowledge is of the utmost importance.

Amongst some less charitable things, Virginia Wolf wrote of Cavendish, "One cannot help following the lure of her erratic and lovable personality as it meanders and twinkles through page after page. There is something noble and Quixotic and high-spirited, as well as crack-brained and bird-witted, about her. Her simplicity is so open; her intelligence so active; her sympathy with fairies and animals so true and tender. She has the freakishness of an elf, the irresponsibility of some non-human creature, its heartlessness, and its charm."

More recently, Margaret Cavendish has been studied as an early feminist, though her pleas for the need for education of women and defense of their abilities is combined with a great deal of criticism of other women. As she inserted herself into The Blazing World, she's also delightfully being called the original Mary Sue.

Margaret Cavendish died suddenly on 15 December 1673 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Before his death, two years later, her devoted husband gathered all the poems he had written in her honour and letters to celebrate her and published them as Letters and Poems in Honour of the Incomparable Princess, Margaret, Dutchess of Newcastle. In her own words, in the introduction of The Blazing World, she wrote, "That though I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second; yet I will endeavour to be, Margaret the First: and, though I have neither Power, Time, nor Occasion, to be a great Conqueror, like Alexander, or Caesar; yet, rather than not be Mistress of a World, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made One of my own."

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, wikipedia, accessed July 3, 2018
The Blazing World, wikipedia, accessed July 3, 2018
Lisa T. Sarasohn, 'A Science Turned Upside Down: Feminism and the Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish, Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 289-307
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, DOI: 10.2307/3817365, Stable URL:
Duchess of Newcastle Margaret Cavendish, The Poetry Foundation, accessed July 3, 2018
Roberts, Jennifer Sherman. "Everyone, We Need to Talk About 17th-Century Badass Writer Margaret Cavendish". The Mary Sue. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
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Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World, London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.
Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World (1666), skullinthestars blog post for January 2, 2011, accessed July 4, 2018
Eric Karl Anderson, The Blazing World of Margaret Cavendish, thelonesomereader blog post for March 9, 2018, accessed July 4, 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Interstital Intro - My portraits of Canadian Women in STEM

Featuring artwork by me, Cheryl Hamilton and Paige Blumer, Curiosity Collider's artshow Interstitial: Science Innovations by Canadian Women is on exhibit until June 22. Since I was unable to attend the Opening in Vancouver, they asked me to share a short video introduction to me and my artwork. So now, I'm sharing the video with you. Comes complete with a peek inside my studio and some of the artwork you could find there. I think I was so focused on pronouncing "electrophoresis" that I slipped up on the more common "geneticist", but it tells about the work.

The exhibit is open from 11 am to 6 pm from Tuesday to Saturday until June 22 at The Beaumont Studios gallery spaces, located at 316/326 West 5th Street, Vancouver, BC, V5Y 1J0.