Saturday, 23 November 2013

Some Important Female Scientists That You've Probably Never Heard Of

In my last post I discussed how and why Damaris's character was formed. In this one, I'll introduce you to a handful of the women scientists who helped me create the intellectual side of her. She is not based on any one person here and indeed, many have little in common with her, but are nevertheless worthy of being remembered for their contributions to science. 

Caroline Herschel came to England from German in 1772, to run her brother’s house for him. When her brother took an interest in Astronomy, Caroline followed and helped him make observations and build telescopes, becoming a renowned astronomer in her own right. She was the first woman to discover a comet and discovered 8 in total, and she had her work published by the Royal Society. She was also the first British women to be paid for her work, when her brother convinced his patron to pay her an annual wage. 

By the time of her death at age 97 in 1848 she had received many honours, including a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society and between them, she had her brother discovered 2,400 new stars.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Deconstructing Damaris

When writing Her Saving Grace, I was prepared for a backlash from the historical puritans (which so far, hasn’t come) but it might surprise many people to know that the science loving, polymath, Damaris Wellesley, is based on real people

Now when we think women and science, especially the origins of women in science, we perhaps think of Marie Curie, or she would at least be high on our list, but while she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was far from the first female scientist. 

Science didn’t begin as we know it today with structure and form, overseen by teachers, conducting experiments that thousands have done before and if one wishes to pursue a career in science, getting a job working for a profit company, or working for a university and applying for research grants. 

Granted, many scientists did teach at universities, but just as many if not more, did not. Science was, to my modern understanding, more what might be considered a hobby. Wealthy men with money, no profession, time and curiosity, set up rooms or laboratories and thought about stuff, then set about devising ways to prove the conclusions that had come to. They dabbled in science, almost. The gifted could also be supported by scientific institutions or wealthy patrons, although they were most certainly middle class, or raised and educated by a charitable institution.