Dr Florence Bascom: Sounding the abyss of science

Originally published in the ebook A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention.

by Jessica Ball

Florence Bascom would have been a remarkable woman in any age, but in her own time she was an outstanding proponent of science and women’s place in it. The field of geology was in its infancy in the 19th century, and Dr Bascom was a pioneer, not only in that she was a woman demanding a position among men, but also in her mastery of the foundational skills of petrography and crystallography, and her uncompromising standards for the geologists she trained and who succeeded her. As a woman pursuing geology for my own career, I find much in Florence Bascom to admire, and look on her as a kindred spirit in my own love of studying the Earth.

Bascom was born in 1862 and had a great advantage in her family: her parents had both studied at seminaries. Her mother, a schoolteacher, was active in women’s clubs and the newly growing feminist movement, and her father led an academic ...

 

 

Only members of the Finding Ada Network can view this page. Please log in below if you are a member, or find out more about how to sign up.

“The Crow”: Poland’s radio girl

Aleks Krotoski, photographed by Greg Funnell on behalf of Geek Calendar

Originally published in the ebook A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention

by Aleks Krotoski

The radio was hidden in the wardrobe. The wardrobe, a beautiful piece that was part of a set of bedroom furniture hand-carved from birch wood by her father, now sits in the spare room in her Southern California home. The rest of the pieces, with their matching curves and hand-crafted clawed feet, are now in her bedroom, just as they were until 1939. She and her mother managed to save them all by stowing them in a neighbour’s attic when the Gestapo came to take the rest, and then in another neighbour’s attic when the Gestapo gutted that home too. She smuggled them out of the country when they escaped in 1945, piling them on top of the car her father found after they were reunited in Romania.

The radio was square with curved edges, an elegant piece which, by coincidence, matched the look and feel ...

 

 

Only members of the Finding Ada Network can view this page. Please log in below if you are a member, or find out more about how to sign up.

Dame Anne McLaren: From one generation to the next

Originally published in the ebook A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention.

by Kat Arney

When I started my PhD at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, I was an ambitious, and probably quite insufferable, young thing straight out of university. At the other end of her scientific lifespan was Anne — more formally known as the Honourable Dame Anne Laura Dorinthea McLaren — who, even though in her 70s, was a regular and forceful presence in the lab and in our shared team meetings. Once I’d got over my arrogant assumption that this short but sprightly old lady had nothing to teach me, I became hugely respectful of her views and thoughts.

As a newly hatched scientist, I was learning my trade working with Professor Azim Surani. My research was embryonic in both senses of the word, as I tried to understand some of the earliest events that happen when life begins. Hour after hour I stared in fascination and frustration down a microscope watching perfectly spherical mouse...

 

 

Only members of the Finding Ada Network can view this page. Please log in below if you are a member, or find out more about how to sign up.

Penny Gowland: Tutor, mentor and pioneer

Originally published in the ebook A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention.

by Heather Williams

The memories of my undergraduate days at the University of Nottingham resemble a richly coloured tapestry. My mind’s eye is immediately drawn to the great contrasts: the vivid brights of elation that accompanied success, adventure, satisfaction and falling head-over-heels in love; the darker, sombre tones of rejection, uncertainty, fear of failure and constant money worries.

The figures in the foreground form a familiar pageant of forms and faces, the individuals who were my world for three years. Those I lived and worked with, laughed and cried and supported and grew with; some of my first true friends, with whom I shared my very self. Some have moved on to futures disconnected from my own, some maintain a courteous online connection, some even send me Christmas cards. Others still sit at the very centre of my life, amongst the select few I could call at 3am in...

 

 

Only members of the Finding Ada Network can view this page. Please log in below if you are a member, or find out more about how to sign up.

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw: Puzzles, bubbles and lattices

Originally published in the ebook A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention.

by Katie Steckles

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw is a prolific mathematician and political figure originally from Manchester. Even among mathematicians, Kathleen Ollerenshaw isn’t a household name, but she should be: she’s made contributions to several areas of mathematics, and her work in politics included a long campaign to improve the state of education, in particular maths education, in Britain.

Born in Withington in 1912, Kathleen studied at St Leonard’s boarding school, St Andrews, where she excelled in mathematics as well as enjoying sports. Although she lost her hearing at the age of eight due to an inherited condition, she didn’t let this affect her work and studies — she could lip-read fluently. Kathleen considered mathematics to be one of only a few subjects in which her deafness didn’t put her at a disadvantage. She didn’t even reveal to her interviewers at Oxford she was deaf u...

 

 

Only members of the Finding Ada Network can view this page. Please log in below if you are a member, or find out more about how to sign up.