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.

Margaret Bryan was a talented schoolmistress and in 1797 she published A Compendious System of Astronomy, the lectures of which were praised by mathematician Charles Hutton. 

In 1806 she also published Lectures on Natural Philosophy, thirteen lectures on hydrostatics, optics, pneumatics, and acoustics. 

The publication, Astronomical and Geographical Class Book for Schools, published anonymously in 1806, has also been ascribed to her.
She had three schools, in Blackheath, near Hyde Park Corner, and at Margate.

Mary Somerville discovered a maths problem in a ladies magazine, and it sparked a lifelong interest in algebra and mathematics. 

In 1794, aged just 14,Her father and husband stopped her but when her husband died in 1807, her inheritance gave her the freedom to resume her studies. She returned to Scotland and in 1812, married William Somerville, who supported her interest. 

She performed experiments in magnetism and write a series of papers on physics, mathematics, astronomy and chemistry, as well as translating astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace’s The Mechanism of the Heavens into English, which was used as a text book for the next 100 years.

Along with Caroline Herschel, she was one of the first two women to become honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Marie MargueriteBihĂ©ron was an anatomist, known for her medical illustrations and wax figure models. Frustrated by their rapid decay, she turned her skills to wax modelling and was renown for her work, becoming a skilled practitioner. 

In 1759 she was invited her to present her work to the Academie Royale des Sciences and again 1770, to demonstrate her innovative, detailed and lifelike model of a pregnant woman, complete with moveable parts and foetuses. In 1771 she presented to the Academie Royale for the third time, presenting her models to the visiting crown prince of Sweden.

Because the Academie did not support women, she eventually moved to England. She achieved international acclaim, both for the anatomical accuracy and lifelikeness of her models, as well as inventing a method of making wax that did not melt and among others, she sold models to the King of Denmark and Catherine II of Russia.

Mary Anning’s love of science began as a child, when she and her brother discovered an animal skeleton, and he charged 12 year old Mary with digging it up. She found a skull and 60 vertebrae, which were sold to a private collector for £23. They thought it was a crocodile but it was eventually named Ichthyosaurus, and thus began Mary’s career as a palaeontologist. 

She had no proper education and taught herself palaeontology, anatomy, geology and illustration and as well as the Ichthyosaurus, she found a long-necked plesiosaurs, a pterodactyl and thousands of other fossils which helped scientists to draw a picture of the world during the Jurassic period. 

Scientists would travel to England from as far away as America, to hunt for fossils with Mary.

Elizabeth Fulhame was a Scottish chemist who is best known for her 1794 work, An Essay on Combustion, detailing her experiments on oxidation-reduction reactions, catalysis and theories on combustion. The book was translated into German in 1795.

In the 1790s, she also made some early observations on the use of light sensitive chemicals on fabric, which predate Thomas Wedgwood's more famous photogram trials of 1801, although she didn’t, attempt to make images as Wedgwood did.

In 1810, she was made an honorary member of the Philadelphia Chemical Society.


Her Saving Grace is available in kindle format on Amazon US,  Amazon UK  and  Amazon CA
You can read an excerpt here.

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