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12 silverpoint drawings on prepared ground. Approx 75 x 105 mm

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls, three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”                  

Tim Hunt. Nobel prize winning scientist

This was the comment which caused the #distractinglysexy campaign. Whether it was taken out of context or not the ensuing twitter storm is a demonstration of the subjective nature of the reality we construct around ourselves.

‘Taking a break from crying and falling in love’his work is a series of portraits of women scientists who have achieved extraordinary things in science despite the social attitudes of their time. Attempting to make their likeness has been an act of remembering – retrieving them from the dusty corners of scientific memory. Silverpoint seemed an appropriate medium as, despite appearing ‘slight’ and ‘delicate’, it is unforgiving, cannot be erased and, over time, the appearance alters. I suspect it is unlikely that any of the women represented here, spent much time in the lab ‘crying’ or ‘falling in love’.

Ada Lovelace 1815 - 1852
Mathmetician and Writer
Considered the first computer programmer and the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron, she achieved acclaim despite the prevailing attitude to women.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin 1900 - 1979
Astronomer and Astrophysicist
Payne-Gaposchkin won a scholarship to Cambridge in 1919, but was not awarded a degree because she was a woman. Cambridge did not award degrees to women until 1948. She moved to Harvard in 1922 where her doctorate dissertation was reviewed by Princeton astronomer Henry Norris Russell, who dissuaded her from presenting her conclusion that the composition of the Sun was predominantly hydrogen as it contradicted the accepted wisdom at the time. Four years later after having derived the same result by different means he published his own paper. Although he acknowledged her work briefly, Russell is still often given credit for the discovery. Despite spending a significant proportion of her career at Harvard with low status and poor salary – none of the courses she taught were recorded until 1945 – she was a trailblazer in a male dominated scientific community.

Dorothy Hodgkin 1910 - 1994
Hodgkin is regarded as one of the pioneer scientists in the field of X-ray crystallography studies of biomolecules. Working most notably on the structure of penicillin, vitamin B-12 and insulin she won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964.

Mary Somerville 1780 - 1872
Science Writer and Polymath
Somerville was forbidden to study in her youth and had to do so in secret. Her first marriage was not happy as her husband did not approve of women pursuing academic interests. After his death she went on to receive wide recognition and become one of the first women members of the Royal Astronomical Society as well as giving her name to Somerville College Oxford.

Grace Hopper 1906 - 1992
Computer Scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral
Inventor of computer programming languages, she is also credited with the term ‘de-bugging’ for fixing  programming glitches after the removal of an actual moth from the computer.

Marie Tharp 1920 - 2006
Geologist and oceanic cartographer
In partnership with Bruce Heezen, Tharp created the first map of the entire ocean floor. For the first 18 years of their collaboration, Heezen collected the data and Tharp drew the maps from that data because at that time women were excluded from working aboard ship. Her work revealed the presence of the Mid-atlantic Ridge, causing a paradigm shift in earth science that led to acceptance of theories of plate techtonics and continental drift.

Hedy Lamarr 1914 - 2000
Film Actress and Inventor
Bored by her acting career, Lamarr, in conjuction with composer George Antheil, developed spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology in an attempt to aid the Allied war effort. The principles of her work are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile phone technology.

Marie Curie1867 - 1934
Physicist and Chemist
Marie Curie is the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to receive two Nobel prizes in multiple scientific disciplines.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, born 1943
Bell Burnell grew up in Lurgan and attended Lurgan College, where girls were not permitted to study science until parents protested against the school’s policy of including cooking and cross-stitching rather than science. As a postgraduate student, advised by her supervisor Anthony Hewish, Bell Burnell discovered the first radio pulsars. Although Bell Burnell’s name was listed second on the published paper after Hewish, the Nobel Prize for Physics was shared between Hewish with Martin Ryle. She remained stoical and continued a much respected and honoured scientific career.

Lise Meitner 1878 -1968
Meitner studied privately because women were not allowed to attend public institutions at the time. She studied with Max Planck and worked with Otto Hahn  for 30 years discovering the element Protactinium in 1917. In 1922 she discovered the radiationless transition known as the Auger effect, so named because Pierre Auger independently discovered it a year later. In 1938 Meitner was forced to flee Germany and although she and her nephew Otto Frisch published the physical explanation for the experiments that provided the evidence for nuclear fission, Hahn downplayed her role after she left Germany. In 1944 he received the Nobel prize for Chemistry for his research into fission whilst Meitner’s contribution was overlooked. Nevertheless Meitner subsequently received 21 scientific honours and awards for her work.

Rosalyn Franklyn 1920 - 1958
Chemist and X-ray crystallographer
Franklyn had a distiguished scientific career most noted for her posthumous impact on the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, the discovery of which led to Francis Crick and James Watson winning a Nobel Prize.

Mary Sherman Morgan 1921 - 2004
Rocket Fuel Scientist
Sherman Morgan is credited with the invention of Hydyne, the liquid fuel which powered the first US satellite. During the second world war because of a shortage scientists (men posted overseas) she postponed her degree to take up a post as a chemist in a munitions factory. After the war she continued her career, the only woman amongst 900 engineers of  the company, despite not having a degree and having been an unmarried mother. She then went on to marry and have 4 children, before developing Hydyne in 1957.


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