ladymercury_10: (Molly)
[personal profile] ladymercury_10
It is time again for that most splendid of holidays, Ada Lovelace Day!  Once a year, bloggers around the world gather to sing the praises of inspiring women in the STEM fields.  And if you are a lady-identified person in science, technology, engineering, or math, I most cordially salute you.  

I wasn't sure for a while whom or what to write about this year.  And then I thought, can we just talk for a minute about how awesome Marie Skłodowska-Curie is?  Because I know everyone has heard of her, and I know in many ways she's become not just the token lady scientist, but the token scientist, and the token chemist, and the token lots of other things.  Which in some ways is a tribute to just how amazing she was, that she as a woman scientist managed to become to many people the face of chemistry, but in other ways it makes what we know of her just a rehearsal of the facts and not really a story.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie is my hero for so many reasons.  She and her husband Pierre were partners not just in love but in science, which is so cool to me.  After he died, she was a single career mom before that was even really a thing.  She raised two daughters who grew up to be amazing in their own right, one of whom (Irène) went on to win her own Nobel Prize.  Marie was the first woman to win the Nobel, and she is still the only woman to win in two fields and the only person to win in two different sciences (those being physics and chemistry).  She founded two medical research institutes that remain prominent today, developed a theory of radioactivity, discovered two elements, and was the first female professor at the the Sorbonne.

It all sounds really abstract if you don't know much chemistry or physics--and I sure don't--but just think about the things we might not have without her.  Radiation therapy for cancer?  No.  Nuclear power?  Not likely.  Radiometric dating?  Nope.  PET scans at the hospital?  How?  And that barely scratches the surface.  It's one thing to say someone was a genius, and it's another to look at modern life and realize you wouldn't recognize it without her.  

If you'd like to know more about her, Lauren Redniss has a really neat book called Radioactive about Marie and Pierre, their life and loves, and their work and legacy.  It's kind of a biography and kind of an art book and kind of a graphic novel, with history and science wrapped up in there, too.   Or you could just check Wikipedia.  I spent some time over there while I was writing this.  

And I know I posted it last year, but come on, it's Kate Beaton, and it never gets old (I have the shirt of it, and I am wearing it right now, haha), so I will leave you with this: Is it love or toxic radiation?

Date: 2012-10-16 05:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She and her husband Pierre were partners not just in love but in science, which is so cool to me.

Me too! And of course it made me immediately think of the Kate Beaton comic :)

Date: 2012-10-16 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Irene and her husband were like that, too. I had to do some research on lady scientists as part of an internship once, and I found a bunch of pictures of the Joliot-Curies together in their lab and I kind of melted over how cute they were together.

Kate Beaton pretty much has a comic for everything, doesn't she? :P

Date: 2012-10-16 05:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
While I'm a huge fan for Marie Curie, I personally root for Rosalind Franklin or Jane Goodall, or maybe even Grace Hopper. I'm more partial to Rosalind Franklin, since she gets absolutely no attention for what she contributed and basically did.

But yes, the advent of radiation was a pretty important thing :D

Date: 2012-10-16 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Those are all cool ladies! I am a bit of a Grace Hopper fangirl as well, and I have a friend whom we have decided should be nicknamed Rosalind, for Rosalind Franklin. She is actually a computer science major and so it has nothing to do with her life, it's part of a complicated inside joke, but yay for lady geneticists!

Date: 2012-10-16 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
ha, that comic. You know for all my math-iness I'm not much of a scientist. I surprised myself after undergrad saying "Hmmm... perhaps I should apply all these funky algorithms". So it's always cool to read up on scientists. I have this thought that stats has historically been a bit less of a boys club than straight math, but I don't have history or numbers to back it up. Certainly in my department, at least the students were very balanced. You did see the ceiling though... the higher up the tenure track, the fewer women represented.

Date: 2012-10-16 07:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am not much of a scientist, either, haha. I fangirl science from a distance, but every time someone suggests I actually take a science class, I kind of go, "What, and do a lab EVERY WEEK?"

That's interesting--I don't know very much about the history of stats, but yeah, math has kind of been a hardcore boy's club, people like Emmy Noether and Sophie Germain notwithstanding. I think what the research says now is that among undergrads the gender balance is starting to even out, and I think I saw a figure that women are now 30% of grad students in math? But yeah, tenure takes a long time to show changes.

Date: 2012-10-16 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

As a science major, I feel it's a pity that we don't dedicate at least one class to those people who made major contributions like Marie Curie, and Rosalind Franklin and everyone else over here. We had an obligatory class on History at uni, but they explored so little of it. :(

Date: 2012-10-16 09:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A history of science class (with special emphasis on all the lady scientists who got ignored because they were, well, ladies) would be awesome! I did take History of Mathematics as an undergrad, but it was a math class, so it wasn't very biographical. It was a lot of "Here are the first two volumes of The Elements. Have fun with Euclid, and when I see you on Thursday, I want you to be able to reenact the first five proofs in Book 1." Which was still pretty cool, but not history-focused in quite the same way I had expected.

Date: 2012-10-16 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Exactly. We had History of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and it was mostly about Galenus and Hippocrates, but not as fun as a history-focused class would have been. But yeah, I guess I probably just miss History, being a science major.

Date: 2012-10-16 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah. I miss liberal arts school and getting to be one of everything, although I don't suppose I miss having to read those super dense philosophy essays that they managed to sneak into every subject. :P

Date: 2012-10-31 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's amazing how many programmers have never heard of Grace Hopper. Even I, who have gone around saying things like, "She was the mother of us all!" didn't realize until last year that she wrote the first compiler.

When I wear my Polish-American Girl hat I am always so proud of Marie Skłodowska-Curie. (And extra points for putting in that "ł"!) It always annoyed me that so many people think she was French!
Edited Date: 2012-10-31 01:34 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-10-31 01:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Grace Hopper really was amazing. :D That makes me think of something funny--have you seen this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic strip that mentions her?

You should definitely be proud of Marie. :) And haha, I had a lot of Polish friends in high school, so I picked up a couple things, like the l with the stroke in it, and that sz actually sounds more like sh.

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