ALD21 Books: Braiding Sweetgrass, Dr Robin Wall Kimmerer

Dr Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Dr Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two ways of knowledge together.

Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings – asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass – offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.

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You can follow her work here:


ALD21: Dr Rose Dieng-Kuntz, Computer Scientist

Dr Rose Dieng-Kuntz

Rose Dieng-Kuntz was a computer scientist who studied artificial intelligence and the sharing of information via the World Wide Web. She was also one of the first people to work on the semantic web, beginning her work on this subject just a few years after the web itself was launched and before its use became widespread.

The semantic web was a huge step forward for the web, and Dieng-Kuntz described it as “a web of knowledge linking individuals, organisations, countries and continents”. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) states that “The Semantic Web provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.”

She said, “The research we are aiming for seeks to improve cooperation between business and the community by building ‘knowledge webs’, a goal that is in phase with Europe’s target of evolving from an ‘information society’ to a ‘knowledge society’.”

Dieng-Kuntz further worked on combining the semantic web with intelligent agents, a concept developed from artificial intelligence where machines are able to talk to other machines, allowing the semantic web to be automated.

Born in Senegal, Dieng-Kuntz worked for the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Computer Science and Automation (INRIA) on Artificial Intelligence from 1985 until her death in 2008. She was the first African woman to be awarded a diploma at the renowned École Polytechnique in Paris, France, and in 2005, she won the Irène Joliot-Curie prize, awarded annually to outstanding women scientists by the French Research Ministry and the EADS Group.

Further reading

ALD21 Archive: What are comets made of? – Dr Sheila Kanani, 2016

What are comets made of? – Dr Sheila Kanani, 2016

Planetary scientist Dr Sheila Kanani explores the history of comet science, and makes a comet nucleus live on stage. 

Dr Sheila Kanani is a planetary physicist, science presenter, secondary school physics teacher and space comedienne with a background in astrophysics and astronomy research from UK universities. She is currently the education, outreach and diversity officer for the Royal Astronomical Society in London. 

Her research has taken her to the Jodrell Bank Observatory, an Australian telescope facility searching for exoplanets in Sydney and to an old mansion in Surrey where she used the Cassini spacecraft to study the Lord of the Rings, Saturn. Sheila teaches and mentors at Space School UK, is a STEM ambassador for science and enjoys visiting schools, giving talks and workshops, and inspiring future astronauts of any age! She has a keen interest in science comedy in pubs, theatres and science festivals and plays the saxophone and field hockey in her spare time.

You can follow her work here:


Recorded at the IET, you can watch the rest of the Ada Lovelace Day Live 2016 playlist here.

ALD21: Hertha Ayrton, Physicist, Inventor and Suffragette

Hertha Ayrton

Born in 1854, Hertha Ayrton’s first accomplishment was to invent and patent a line-divider. Built out of several parallelograms, it allows users to divide a line into any number of equal parts and to enlarge or reduce a figure.

Her work on electric arcs started in 1893. Widely used in street lighting, electric arcs flickered and hissed, which caused problems. Ayrton discovered that the arc’s hiss was due to oxygen coming into contact with the carbon rods used to create the arc, and that when oxygen was excluded the arc remained steady. This allowed her to develop the Ayrton equation, which describes the linear relationship between arc length, pressure and potential difference.

Ayrton became the first woman to present her own paper, The Hissing of the Electric Arc, in front of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), and soon became the first woman to be elected to the IEE. The Royal Society rejected her petition to present her paper, The Mechanism of the Electric Arc, which was read by a man in her stead. They also rejected John Perry’s proposal that she become a Fellow.

Ayton went on to study the formation of ripples in sand and waves in water, and recognised that the formation of ripples would affect propellers and aircraft. She became the first woman to read a paper, The Origin and Growth of Ripple Marks, at the Royal Society in 1904, and was the first woman to be awarded the Hughes Medal for her work on ripples and the electric arc in 1906.

During World War I, she used her work on waves to design the ‘Ayrton anti-gas fans’ that were, eventually, used to remove mustard gas and other chemical weapons from the trenches, dug-outs and shell holes, and mine craters.

Further reading

ALD21 Books: The Book of the Moon, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock

The Book of the Moon: A Guide to Our Closest Neighbour, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Have you ever wondered if there are seasons on the moon or if space tourism will ever become commonplace? So has Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE. In fact, she earned her nickname “Lunatic” because of her deep fascination for all things lunar. In her lucidly written, comprehensive guide to the moon, Aderin-Pocock takes readers on a journey to our closest celestial neighbor, exploring folklore, facts, and future plans.

She begins with the basics, unpacking everything from the moon’s topography and composition to its formation and orbit around the Earth. She travels back in time to track humanity’s relationship with the moon — beliefs held by ancient civilizations, the technology that allowed for the first moon landing, a brief history of moongazing, and how the moon has influenced culture throughout the years — and then to the future, analyzing the pros and cons of continued space travel and exploration. Throughout the book are sidebars, graphs, and charts to enhance the facts as well as black-and-white illustrations of the moon and stars.

Order the book on here and your purchase will support a local independent bookshop of your choice!