Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Ada Lovelace Day
There's a good chance you may not have heard of this day, but today is Ada Lovelace Day. This day is an "international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in science and technology".
Ada Lovelace was one of the first computer programmers (not just the first women, one of the first). While everyone else planned to use the (never built at that time) "analytical engines" for basic maths, Ada wrote an algorithm to use the machine to calculate bernoulli numbers, making her the first computer programmer, though way before her time.
So what to write for this day, it's a hard one, because looking back there were really no women scientists who directly affected my past - in Aberystwyth where I did my undergrad there were no female scientists teaching the Marine and Freshwater biology program, and in Southampton i'm having trouble putting my finger on any who I worked with or even around. The European consortium I did my PhD under just had a handful of female sediment biologists. I guess it's not really something i've thought or dwelled much on, i'm not a fan of this talk of sexism in science, not that I think it doesn't exist and haven't experienced it myself (one particular Antarctic cruise will go nameless), I just feel that much more than half of the time it's brought up as an excuse for someone not doing well rather than something in reality, so it makes it hard to tease out. It's an attitude i've unfortunately met often with some women in science, and one that I don't think has done those particular people any favors. Certainly the women I see around me who have done well in the careers (and lives) are not the ones to sit back and blame sexism for this that and the other. I also know far more men who haven't made it past their PhD or postdocs in marine science than I do women.
But getting off that subject, this day is to celebrate those women in science and technology. Women like Caroline Mikkelsen, the first woman to the Antarctic in 1935; Christine Muller-Swartz, the first woman to do science in the Antarctic in 1969; Ruth Turner, the first woman to use Alvin; Cindy Van Dover, the first (and only) woman Alvin pilot and Slyvia Earl, a National Geographic Explorer in residence and someone who has brought the marine world into peoples homes for many tens of years. There are many women back in history who have turned the tides of marine science, particularly marine biology. Do I think women are overlooked, sometimes, but mainly I think we just don't like to shout about our science as much as the boys do, and that personally works for me.....:0)
This page here is a wonderful compilation of women in marine science.
Instead of naming the colleagues I have now, i'll just say this post is dedicated to the, thankfully large, handful of women who I work with, and thoroughly enjoy doing so!