Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Reconstructionists Women in Science for Ada Lovelace Day

Lisa Congdon, 'Ada Lovelace'
Today is the fifth annual international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology, science and math, Ada Lovelace Day 2013 (ALD13). You may recall Ada, brilliant proto-software engineer, daughter of absentee father, the mad, bad, and dangerous to know, Lord Byron, she was able to describe and conceptualize software for Charles Babbage's computing engine, before the concepts of software, hardware, or even Babbage's own machine existed! She foresaw that computers would be useful for more than mere number-crunching. For this she is rightly recognized as visionary - at least by those of us who know who she was. She figured out how to compute Bernouilli numbers with a Babbage analytical engine. Tragically, she died at only 36. Today, in Ada's name, people around the world are blogging about women in science and technology, whose accomplishments have all too often gone unrecognized or unacknowledged.

Lisa Congdon, 'Maria Mitchell'
Today, I thought I would direct you to The Reconstructionists, a year-long collaboration of artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon and writer Maria Popova (of Brainpickings fame) to celebrate remarkable women, including the subset of the scientists I've selected to share here, artists, writers, other unsung heroes. Each woman they feature is illustrated by Congdon along with quotation and posted with a succinct biography by Popova.  Each represents someone "who have changed the way we define ourselves as a culture and live our lives as individuals of any gender." These two have created a beautiful and remarkable series. You should go enjoy the project in its entirety (thus far)!

Some of my favorite heroines of the history of science they've selected to portray include Ada Lovelace, shown above, astronomer Maria Mitchell (at right),  mathematician, physicist, writer and gifted educator and popularizer of science Mary Fairfax Somerville (read more about Somerville in my review of Seduced by Logic - Émilie du Châtelet, Mary Somerville And the Newtonian Revolution by Robyn Arianrhod cross-posted to sci&lit) and physicist Rosalind Franklin (whose incredible x-ray crystallography provided the first indication that DNA is a double helix - they gave the Nobel to the colleagues who helped themselves to her research and didn't happen to die). Other scientists portrayed include astronaut Sally Ride, primatologist Jane Goodall and unsung mathematical genius, pioneer of communications engineering and glamourous Hollywood actress Hedy Lemarr.
Lisa Congdon, 'Rosalind Franklin'

Lisa Congdon, 'Mary Somerville'

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