The Ladies of STEM – Astronotes

May 13, 2019 - Comment

As a part of Museum Week 2019, among the workers from Armagh Observatory and Planetarium have written a number of phrases about which ladies in STEM encourage them significantly. Katherine Johnson by Helen McLoughlin With the thrill surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the primary ever moon touchdown in 1969, I needed to deal with the

As a part of Museum Week 2019, among the workers from Armagh Observatory and Planetarium have written a number of phrases about which ladies in STEM encourage them significantly.
Katherine Johnson by Helen McLoughlin

With the thrill surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the primary ever moon touchdown in 1969, I needed to deal with the ladies of Apollo. Right this moment, I need to discuss Katherine Johnson. Katherine had a excessive aptitude for numbers and at first turned a Maths trainer. In 1963, the Langley Analysis Centre in Virginia had been calling for a small group of ‘human computer systems’.  These human computer systems wanted to carry out complicated calculations and lots of of those jobs had been crammed by ladies. Katherine joined the crew at Langley and was underneath the route of Dorothy Vaughan, the primary African-American girl to oversee the centre’s group of human calculators. Then Katherine went on to hitch the Flight Analysis Division the place she performed a task in each house program that Nasa launched. She calculated and plotted the trajectory Alan Shepard’s house capsule would comply with because it briefly left earth in 1961.She additionally calculated and plotted the trail astronaut John Glenn would take to orbit the earth. Her proudest second, nonetheless, was her half in sending Apollo 11 to the moon. She labored at Langley for 36 years and in 2015, President Obama awarded 97-year-old Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Katherine Johnson. Supply: NASA

Williamina Fleming by Simon Jeffery

Williamina Fleming (Could 15, 1857 – Could 21, 1911). Williamina Stevens  was born in Dundee, Scotland, daughter of a carver and gilder. After marrying James Fleming she labored briefly as a trainer earlier than the couple emigrated to Boston Massachusetts in 1878. There, with a brand new child and deserted by her husband, she took a job as maid in the house of Edward Pickering, director of  the Harvard School Observatory. Pickering’s spouse Lizzie recognised Williamina’s skills and Edward Pickering employed subsequently Fleming to work on the Observatory. In 1881 he taught Williamina methods to analyze stellar spectra. Turning into a founding member, and later answerable for the ‘Harvard Computer systems’, she developed a system for the classification of stellar spectra primarily based on the energy of hydrogen traces. The Pickering-Fleming system turned the fast forerunner of the system used to day. Her classifications  constituted the majority of the Henry Draper catalogue of over 10,000 stars. She found 59 nebulae, together with the Horesehead nebula, 310 variable stars, 10 novae, and the primary white dwarf, 40 Eridani B, in addition to many stars with peculiar spectra that might take a century or extra to interpret.With 41 refereed publications, she was in all probability the best stellar spectroscopist of the 19th century. Just lately, dozens of her notebooks had been found at Harvard, and are being transcribed. They could include but extra discoveries! In addition to her scientific achievements, Williamina was an advocate for different ladies within the sciences. 

Williamina Fleming. Supply: Wikimedia Commons

Mary Anning by Anna Taylor

Mary Anning was a prolific fossil collector and
palaeontologist. She was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis in Dorset, England, the place
she made lots of her discoveries. Lyme Regis is also called the ‘Jurassic
Coast’ as it’s wealthy in fossils fashioned within the late Triassic/early Jurassic
durations, 201Mya. The cliffs are unstable, resulting in landslides and exposing
layers of fossils beforehand hidden beneath the floor. Actually, fossil
accumulating was a thriving enterprise within the city, and was utilized by many, together with
the Anning household, to complement their incomes in a time of poverty.

Richard Anning, Mary’s father, usually took Mary and her
brother, Joseph, on fossil searching expeditions, and her dad and mom and brother
made some attention-grabbing finds of their very own. The primary main discovery was in 1811;
Mary, 12 and Joseph, 15, between them discovered an entire ichthyosaur skeleton,
which was bought and later displayed on the British museum.

Anning took over the fossil accumulating enterprise as soon as her
father died, and her foremost supply of earnings had been invertebrate fossils that bought
for a number of shillings apiece, akin to ammonite and belemnite. Vertebrate fossils
had been uncommon finds, however they bought for rather more than the invertebrates. Her job accumulating
these fossils was harmful; in 1833 she was nearly killed in a landslide,
which killed her beloved canine, Tray. She made many essential discoveries,
together with the primary compete plesiosaur and the primary instance of a pterosaur in
Britain. Regardless of not being properly educated or capable of attend college, Mary
Anning was an avid reader of scientific journals, usually hand writing copies of
papers she was capable of borrow, together with technical drawings. As well as, she
usually collected and dissected fashionable animals, together with fish and cuttlefish,
and so quickly turned, solely self-taught, an skilled in palaeontology. She was
capable of establish, and sometimes to mount the skeletons she discovered to show them. She
additionally instructed that what had previously been referred to as bezoar stones (HP), had been
truly fossilised faeces of marine reptiles. These got here to be referred to as coprolites.

Sadly, as she was a working-class girl and a
spiritual dissenter, Anning was not capable of absolutely be part of the scientific neighborhood
of the time, and lots of of her findings had been revealed by males, giving her no
credit score for her work. Ladies weren’t allowed on the time to vote or attend
college, and the Geological Society of London didn’t settle for ladies as
members and even as company. Nonetheless, Anning was revered sufficient as a researcher
to be visited by, and to develop into mates with, many eminent (male) geologists of
the time to debate, recommend concepts, and go on fossil accumulating expeditions.
When Anning died in March of 1847 a eulogy was revealed within the Society’s quarterly
transactions. This was an honour usually solely awarded to fellows of the society
and was the primary given for a girl.

Anning’s discoveries had been extraordinarily influential on the time. The skeletons and fossils she discovered had been extremely attention-grabbing as proof for extinction, as most individuals of the time nonetheless believed within the biblical creation delusion. The story of creation implied that the Earth was just a few thousand years previous, and that each species that existed then had been introduced into being all on the identical time and had not modified since then. A lot of her finds refuted that, being tens of millions of years previous and of species that don’t exist as we speak. Her finds lent help to a controversial principle – that previously, reptiles had been the dominant class of animal life.

Mary Anning together with her Canine. Credited to ‘Mr. Gray’ in Crispin Tickell’s e-book ‘Mary Anning of Lyme Regis’ (1996)

Vera Rubin by Heather Alexander

With regards to astronomy there
is nothing extra mysterious than Darkish Matter. Practically each youngster with ardour
for astronomy, asks about Darkish Matter after they enter the Armagh Planetarium.
They know the idea of it, however what they don’t know is that the primary particular person
to first come throughout the existence of Darkish Matter was American Astronomer, Vera

Vera was born in July 1928, in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On the tender age of 10, she developed a love for
astronomy merely watching the celebrities from her bed room window. Desirous to know
extra in regards to the night time sky, she constructed a rudimentary telescope out of cardboard
together with her father and commenced monitoring and observing objects within the night time sky.

In highschool she was instructed by
her science trainer, of all individuals, to keep away from a profession within the sciences and
develop into and artist. Fortunately she ignored this trainer and went on to do her
undergraduate schooling in Vassar School. As soon as she graduated from right here, she
went on to hunt a postgraduate in Princeton School, solely to be turned away due
to her gender. This was frequent for a lot of ladies throughout this time.

She enrolled at Cornell
College (the place her husband was additionally a graduate) and earned her masters
diploma in 1951. She studied for her PhD in Georgetown College in Washington
DC, and her dissertation, accomplished in 1954, concluded that galaxies clumped
collectively, quite than being randomly distributed by the universe, a
controversial concept not pursued by others for 20 years.

After graduating, Vera taught at
Montgomery County Junior School, and he or she additionally labored at Georgetown College
as a analysis assistant. In 1962, she turned an assistant professor on the
College. In 1965, she did one thing that no girl in Physics had ever finished
earlier than. She turned the primary girl allowed to make use of the devices on the
Palomar Observatory. Previous to this, no girl had ever been authorised to entry
this facility. In the identical 12 months she efficiently secured a place on the
Division of Terrestrial Magnetism on the Carnegie Establishment of Washington,
the place she started work on galaxy clusters. When Rubin noticed her galaxies, she
discovered that their rotation curves didn’t match as much as principle. Little did she
know, she had discovered the primary indicator for darkish matter, an elusive materials
believed to make up round 25% of the lacking mass of the universe.

Rubin knew that her findings
can be criticised, and in a bid to keep away from this, she slanted her analysis extra
in the direction of the research of rotation curves of singular galaxies, quite than the
extensively debated galaxy clusters. She additionally started analysis on the Andromeda
galaxy. All through her profession Vera Rubin examined greater than 200 galaxies.

Throughout her profession Rubin battled together with her male counterparts to realize her personal credibility, and so she devoted herself to encouraging younger women and girls to pursue their goals of investigating the universe. It wasn’t simply the sphere of astronomy that she took a stand in, she additionally was a robust advocate for girls within the basic area of science. She received quite a lot of awards and in addition to changing into the second feminine astronomer to be elected to the Nationwide Academy of Sciences, she additionally obtained the Nationwide Medal of Science from President Invoice Clinton in 1993 for her pioneering analysis packages in observational cosmology.

Vera Rubin. Credit score:

“Science will not be a boy’s recreation, it’s not a woman’s recreation. It’s everybody’s recreation. It’s about the place we’re and the place we’re going.”Area journey advantages us right here on Earth. And we ain’t stopped but. There’s extra exploration to come back.” – Nichelle Nichols, NASA Ambassador


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