Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Beautiful (Female) Mind Forgotten, almost

A family photo of Albert Einstein. 1936 Saranac Lake. My mother in law took it. I figured out he was setting up for an AP Photoshoot, Einstein At Play! She said to her companion disapprovingly, "Look at that man with the messy hair." I think it could be argued that Einstein's hair made him a pop culture figure, not his math. After all, he didn't bother to get a haircut for this national photo shoot.

Although a scientist, Albert Einstein, was named the Man of the Century by Time Magazine a while back, it is more a case of Winner Take All.

Winner take all the recognition, I mean.

Scientists, in general, don't get much recognition. I think this is because they don't make movies about their lives. Too boring. Not 'romantic enough' say, like the lives of painters.

Or because most people relate to what they do, what they are studying.

Up until this year, that saw two scientist-based movies out, the Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, a Beautiful Mind was a glaring  exception.

For women scientists, things are even worse. (Yes, I know they made a famous movie about Mme. Curie, but exceptions always prove the rule.)

Emmeline Pankhurst and Carrie Derick. They met  in 1911. Derick brought her to Montreal and described her militant movement as 'more advanced' than the moderate non-violent suffrage movement.

My blog here is about my work writing about Canadian women of the 1910 era.

 Carrie Derick, McGill University Botanist, is one of my main characters.

 Indeed, she is the focus of Furies Cross the Mersey, my book about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.

Carrie Derick does have a street named after her in Verdun but, as far as I know, my self-published 'expose'  is the only book about her.

I based some of my story on a speech by McGill Professor Margaret Gillett from 1989, the text of which is in the McGill Engineering Library (and nowhere else).It has been bound into a little book and called No Fool She.

Of course, Derick's story has a dark side; one that is not considered 'romantic.' No, had she had an illicit affair way back then, say with her supervisor, Dr. Penfellow who did, indeed, go mad  it would have been much better for her posthumous public profile.

(Were I writing a Hollywood style movie I would just create a love affair, wouldn't I?)

Her PR problem: She promoted eugenics - as did many elites in the 1910 era. A  taboo topic these days.

Anyway, right now I am writing a short piece for a non-profit website about another forgotten Canadian woman scientist, the first Canadian computer scientist, Beatrice Worsley.

Her memory would be entirely  lost to history, except for the work of  a certain University of Waterloo scholar, Scott. M. Campbell.

I have only his work to refer to.

Worsley doesn't appear to have any dark side, only a studious side. She loved mathematics and lab work.

She did participate in WWII, (and even worked with Alan Turing) but her war work was purely in the laboratory, although she got out on the boats after the war, as a researcher.

PS. Well, then there's the Big Bang Theory, a top TV show that is trying to put the names of physicists out there, but that show, these days,  is mostly Friends with exponents.