National Women's History Month Archives

March 13, 2013

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson


Photo by the World Economic Forum

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson was born in Washington, D. C., on August 5, 1946, and grew up in the city's northwest district. Early on, she showed a gift for science and was encouraged by both her parents who believed strongly in education. She was a straight-A student at Roosevelt High School and valedictorian of her Class of 1964.

In 1964 she was one of 45 women and a handful of African Americans in her 900-member freshman class at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was a lonely time for Jackson who had to study alone since many white students refused to work with her. Rising above, Jackson delved more and more into the scientific world she loved. She thrived academically and upon her graduation in 1968, she was offered fellowship support to stay on for her Ph.D. in physics. She was the first black woman to receive an advanced degree from MIT in 1973.

From graduate school, she moved on to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1991 she became a professor of physics at Rutgers University. In 1995, President Clinton appointed Jackson to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), becoming the first woman and first African American to hold that position.

On July 1, 1999, Dr. Jackson became the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Currently Dr. Jackson is serving as a member of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, an advisory group of the nation's leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 25, 2013

Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya

Sofja_Wassiljewna_Kowalewskaja_1.jpgSofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya (1850-1891) was a Russian mathematician. From childhood she showed an exceptional grasp of mathematics, especially calculus. She was encouraged in her private study by her parents. However what she could learn on her own was limited and Kovalevskaya wanted to study at a University.

At that time women were not allowed to attend the universities in Russia and most fathers, including Kovalevskaya's, were unwilling to give consent to daughters to study abroad. To get around her father's refusal she contracted a "fictitious marriage" with Vladimir Kovalevsky, a paleontologist. In 1869 the newlyweds left Russia and settled in Heidelberg, Germany. This was where Kovalevskaya was to fulfill her dream of a higher education. By the spring of 1874, Kovalevskaya had written three doctoral dissertations. Her work was submitted to the University of Göttingen and she was awarded her doctoral summa cum laude in the fall of 1874, becoming the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics. Kovalevskaya was offered a position at Stockholm University in 1884.

Five years later, Kovalevskaya became the first female mathematician to hold a chair at a European university. In 1888, Kovalevskaya's paper on the study of the motion of a rigid body received the prestigious Prix Bordin award given by the French Académie Royale des Sciences. Unfortunately her life was cut short when she died in 1891 of influenza. She was only 41 years old and at the height of her mathematical career. Although she published only ten papers during her lifetime, Kovalevskaya's work has withstood the test of time. There are many mathematics awards as well as a lunar crater named in her honor. To learn more about Sofia Kovalevskaya, check out Little Sparrow : a Portrait of Sophia Kovalevsky.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 16, 2013

Jacquelyne Mary Jackson


Photo by Candida Performa

Jacquelyne Mary Jackson (born 1932, also cited as Jacquelyne Johnson Jackson and Jacquelyne Johnson Clarke) is a sociologist who researches minority aging. She is known for a being a pioneer in her field, being the first woman to receive a doctorate in sociology from Ohio State University, the first full-time African American faculty member to be hired at the Duke University Medical Center, and the first African American tenured faculty member at the medical school.

Dr. Jackson became interested in the field of minority aging when as a young woman she witnessed the struggle of elderly friends and acquaintances to meet healthcare costs. In 1974 Dr. Jackson was a partner in producing a short documentary on minority aging titled Old, Black, and Alive. Other accomplishments include helping to found the Journal of Minority Aging and in 1980 she published, Minorities in Aging, a classic in the field of sociology. Jackson was also a participant in the civil rights movement and participated in the 1963 march in Washington. Jackson published a study about civic group participation in the civil rights movement, These Rights They Seek. In 1961 Jackson was elected a fellow of the National Sciences Foundation.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 28, 2013

Annie Jump Cannon

Annie_Jump_Cannon_1922_Portrait.jpgAnnie Jump Cannon (December 11th, 1863 to April 13th, 1941) was an American astronomer recognized for her contributions to contemporary catalogs and classifications of stars. Cannon classified approximately 350,000 stars and discovered over 300 new stars.

Cannon star-gazed as a child, and as an adult, she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts where she received undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics and astronomy. Upon graduation, Cannon worked at the Harvard College Observatory where she assisted with the Harvard System of Spectral Classification and the Henry Draper Catalogue, cataloging systems that organized stars according to their temperatures or spectral characteristics. Cannon also had an interest in photography, and used photographic images to help map the stars.

Cannon had over a 40 year career in astronomy, and received many honors. Some of her recognitions include: the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Oxford University, the first woman officer elected to the American Astronomical Society, and the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. The Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy is named in her honor.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 20, 2013

Dr. Ann Tsukamoto

ann-tsukamoto-5046513c4c3dd.jpgDr. Ann Tsukamoto is currently the Executive Vice President of Research & Development for StemCells, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that specializes in the study, advancement, and commercialization of stem cell therapies and related technology. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1991, Tsukamoto became a co-patentee of the process to isolate human stem cells, and is also an inventor on six stem cell-related U.S. patents. With her direction and 20+ years of experience, the StemCells, Inc. team has isolated the human neural stem cell, a mass of human liver transplanting cells and an entrant pancreas stem cell. Her work has majorly advanced the knowledge of the blood systems of cancer patients, getting us steps closer to finding a cure for the disease.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 30, 2013

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

rebecca_crumpler.jpgRebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African American woman to become a physician in the United States. She was also one of the first African Americans to have a medical publication, A Book of Medical Discourses, in 1883. Her aunt was her inspiration to pursue a career in the medical field, because she took care of their ill neighbors, since there was almost no medical care for poor blacks around that time. After graduation from the New England Female Medical College in 1864, she practiced in Boston until the Civil War Ended in 1865, and moved to Richmond, Virginia to become more versed in diseases of women and children. There she cared for freed slaves and worked with missionary and community groups, all while experiencing tremendous postwar racism. Little is known about Crumpler, except what is written in the introduction of her book, and no photos of her survive today.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 11, 2013

Yi So-Yeon and Chiaki Mukai

Yi_So-yeon_at_ISS_08Apr17_(NASA-ISS016-E-036365).JPGYi So-Yeon (1978- ) is a South Korean scientist. She is the first Korean who has flown in space and the second Asian woman to do so. While on her space mission Yi So- Yeon worked on scientific experiments dealing with gravity. These experiments included fruit flies, plants and the effect of gravity of her face, heart and eyes.

Chiaki_Mukai.jpgThe first Asian woman to fly into space was Chiaki Mukai (1952- ). Mukai, who is a doctor, was also the first Japanese woman in space and the first Japanese citizen to have two spaceflights. Mukai has been a visiting lecturer at the International Space University and has worked on space missions doing medical experiments and studying how space flight relates to the aging process.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 6, 2013

Ping Fu


Photo by The 3D Systems Corp

Ping Fu (1958- ) is the Chinese-American cofounder of Geomagic, a firm based in 3D Computer imaging and technology. Ping Fu was born in China and grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. While growing up in China she received little formal education until the end of the Cultural Revolution, when she then earned a bachelor's degree in Chinese Language. She came to the United States at age 25 knowing little English. She enrolled in English as a second language course. As her English improved she worked odd jobs to support herself as she earned a computer science degree. After graduation she worked at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications which is located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, where she had previously taken classes. While working at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications she took advantage of an opportunity to receive financial backing for a startup business. With this she worked on creating software which works with 3D technology, which became Geomagic. If you would like to find out more about Ping Fu and her amazing journey, pick up her new autobiography at your local library!

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 5, 2013

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) was an actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood movies. During the height of her fame, she was one of the major talents at MGM and was once referred to as the "most beautiful woman in Europe." Her most notable role was arguably as Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah. Besides her beauty and acting talents, she was also a mathematician and inventor. She helped create and holds the patent (along with composer George Antheil) for a secret communication system, which is a pre-computer wireless communication that uses a piano roll for frequency hopping. Though underutilized when first created, the patent later served as a basis for communication devices like blue tooth. To read more about Hedy's life, check out one of her biographies. If you would like to see her in action, check out one of her movies from the library!

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 1, 2013

Welcome to Women's History Month 2013

The 2013 Women's History Month theme is "Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics". We will be celebrating the historic contributions of women in the sciences with Now @ MPL blog posts throughout the month of March.

To learn more about the history of innovating women, have a look at the collected biographies in American Women of Science Since 1900 and The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science.

You can also explore the lives and challenges of women currently working in the sciences in books such as Sisters in Science: Conversations with Black Women Scientists About Race, Gender, and Their Passion; Women in Science: Then and Now; and The Madame Curie Complex : the Hidden History of Women in Science.

March 4, 2013

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller

AtariBasicExample.pngSister Mary Kenneth Keller is widely credited as the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Computer Science in the United States.

Mary Kenneth Keller joined the Sisters of Charity in 1932. In 1940 she took her vows and became a nun in the Roman Catholic Church. Afterwards, she attended DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she received first her B.S. degree in Mathematics and later a M.S. degree in Mathematics and Physics. In 1965 she received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was also the first woman to be allowed in to the computer center at Dartmouth. It was there that she was on a team that helped to develop BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). BASIC allowed people who did not have a background in computers (small business owners, for example) to be able to program their own software. This made computers much more accessible to the general population.

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller founded and chaired the Computer Science program at Clarke College (now Clarke University) in Iowa for 20 years. She passed away in 1985 at the age on 71.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

iwd_square.gifInternational Women's Day has been celebrated since the early 1900s. Originally held on the last Sunday of February, International Women's Day was moved to March 8th in 1913. International Women's Day has close ties to the labor rights movement of the early 20th century in countries across the globe, most notably in Russia and the United States.

The United Nations officially recognized International Women's Day in 1975. The UN has declared this year's theme to be "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women." This year, for the first time the UN is releasing a song to celebrate this event. The song is titled "One Woman", and was the result of a year of work by 20 different artists from around the world.

More information about International Women's Day can be found at: UN Women, the official International Women's Day website, and One Woman.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 18, 2013

Grace Murray Hopper


Image from the U.S. Naval Historical Center Online Library

Born in New York City in 1906, Grace Murray demonstrated a fierce curiosity and intelligence in her early years that would serve her well for the rest of her life. She received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Physics from Vassar College in 1928 and her Master's degree from Yale University in 1930. She started teaching at Vassar College the following year. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale University in 1934.

In 1943 Hopper enlisted in the Navy and served with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), a division of the Naval Reserves made up entirely of women. She served in the Navy until 1986, eventually being promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.

In 1949 Hopper began working for the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. It was in 1952 that Hopper developed the first compiler (a program for translating computer code), called A-0. Up until its development, the prevailing opinion was that computers could only be used for arithmetic. Further disproving that assertion, Admiral Hopper helped to develop the programing language COBOL, which was closer to human language than machine code. COBOL is a standard programing language that continues to be developed and is still used in computing today. To learn more about Grace Murray Hopper, check out Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age or Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 27, 2013

Maria Sibylla Merian


Maria Sibylla Merian (April 2nd, 1647 to January 13th, 1717) was a German naturalist and scientific illustrator who painted detailed images of plants, flowers, and insects. She is especially known for her depictions of butterfly metamorphoses, a process that was largely unknown of at the time. Merian published several books of observations and drawings, including The Caterpillar's Marvelous Transformation and Strange Floral Food in 1679. Her classifications of butterflies and moths are still relevant today.

Merian's work eventually took her from gardens of Amsterdam to Suriname, a Dutch colony in South America. Merian's two-year trip was unusual for women at the time, and she was able to uncover a whole range of animals and plants previously unknown to western cultures. Merian's findings and drawings not only depicted Suriname's local plants and animals, but also recorded native names and uses of plants.

Unfortunately, Merian was not acknowledged by the male scientific community of the period because she did not publish her works in Latin, but she is better recognized today, especially in Germany where Merian's portrait was printed on a stamps and the 500 Deutsche Mark before Germany adopted the Euro.

For a biography of Maria Merian, check out Chrysalis by Kim Todd.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 26, 2013

Bessie Blount Griffin


Bessie Blount Griffin (November 24, 1914 - December 30, 2009) was an African American physical therapist and inventor. During World War II, Griffin provided physical therapy to wounded war veterans. Her work with veterans inspired her to invent a device that assisted amputees with feeding themselves. When Griffin couldn't sell the device to the United States government, she sold it to the French government.

In 1969 Griffin became a forensic scientist. She was appointed the chief document examiner for the Portsmouth Police Department in Virginia and later trained at Scotland Yard, becoming the first African American woman to work there. In the final stage of her career, Griffin ran her own forensic science consulting firm and was employed to verify the authenticity of documents ranging from Civil War documents to Native American-U.S. treaties.

To read more about Griffin and inventors like her, see Mother and Daughters of Invention by Autumn Stanley.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 19, 2013

Carol Shaw


Carol Shaw had no idea when she started working at Atari in 1978 that she was becoming the first female professional computer game designer. Fresh off earning her Masters in Computer Science from UC Berkeley, Shaw was excited to take her first professional job with a company that made games. While Atari's president once told her "Oh, at last! We have a female game designer. She can do cosmetics color matching and interior decorating cartridges!", Shaw thankfully did not receive the same sort of discrimination from her fellow programmers. While her early games seem rudimentary today, 3-D Tic Tac Toe and Video Checkers, these efforts were innovative for their time. Shaw's most popular work, River Raid, would come later when she worked for Activision. Shaw's programming career was as lucrative as it was short-lived, allowing her to essentially retire in the mid-eighties as a pioneer in her field.

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 15, 2013

Chien-Shiung Wu


Photo from the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Ever needed to separate uranium metal into the U-235 and U-238 isotopes via gaseous diffusion? Okay, probably not something you've needed to do in your day-to-day routine, but this method was an important part of a little American science project called the Manhattan Project. The specific method was one of many achievements by Chinese-American Chien-Shiung Wu, physicist extraordinaire. Born on May 31, 1912 in Shang Hai, Wu excelled at her schooling in her native China and then moved to America to further her education. Her achievements through research would soon include such things as improved Geiger counters and experiments proving the Law of Conservation of Parity as invalid. Wu was a pioneer in her chosen field, becoming the first Chinese-American to be elected into the US National Academy of Sciences, the first female instructor in the Princeton Physics Department, and the first woman to become president of the American Physical Society.

Check our catalog for materials about and by Chien-Shiung Wu today!

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

March 12, 2013

Valentina Tereshkova


Photograph by Alexander Mokletsov

Born on March 6, 1937, Valentina Tereshkova would go on to become the first woman in space. The daughter of a Russian war hero and a dedicated, hard-working single mother, Valentina took an interest in skydiving and parachuting at an early age. It was her expertise in these skills that led her to being selected to join the female cosmonaut corps in 1962. After extensive training, Tereshkova successfully piloted the Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963 to become the first woman in space (a feat not repeated until 19 years later when fellow cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya flew aboard the Soyuz T-7). Even after this momentous achievement, Tereshkova did not rest on her laurels. She went on to earn her doctorate in engineering, served as a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. With honors and awards too numerous to even begin to list, Valentina is truly an important figure in women's history.

Check our catalog for books about Valentina Tereshkova today!

This entry is part of MPL's National Women's History Month.

About National Women's History Month

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Now @ MPL... in the National Women's History Month category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Atkinson is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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