To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, today 9 October, we asked everyone at Pirbright to nominate their female STEM role model with a short explanation on why they were nominating them.
Miriam Windsor, Research Services Capability Leader, nominated Pirbright’s Dr Geraldine Taylor, who was previously the Head of the Vaccinology Group. Dr Taylor’s research interests were in the mechanisms of immunity and vaccine design for bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and African swine fever virus (ASFV). Windsor said that Dr Taylor’s ‘enthusiasm for science has never dimmed and has been one of the few women scientists that I know who has managed to juggle having a family, being in a senior position and running a guide group. She has been a real inspiration to me’. Teresa Maughan, Head of Communications, who also nominated Dr Taylor said ‘she is a fantastic role model for female and male scientists alike and has contributed so much to the Institute’.
Miriam Windsor was also one of two people, along with Dr Mark Fife, Group Leader, Genetic and Genomics, who nominated Rosalind Franklin, the English chemist and X-ray crystallographer. Franklin’s studies of viruses, coal and graphite were generally appreciated during her lifetime, but her contribution to our knowledge of the structure of DNA has only been recognised in more recent years. Windsor commented that Franklin’s untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1958, at the age of 37, denied her the opportunity to be awarded the Nobel Prize alongside James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 because the prize is never awarded posthumously.
Scientists outside the biological sciences were also nominated. Mary Arinze, IT Specialist Project Manager LIMS, nominated Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, an award winning British space scientist and science educator, noting her appearance on the Cbeebies children's' programme "Stargazing" got her kids hooked on space and telescopes. She also praised Dr Aderin-Pocock MBE’s work encouraging girls, women and ethnic minorities to pursue STEM based careers. ‘Her message of why being different is no barrier to success if you are passionate about something certainly resonates with my daughter who is dyslexic, but she was even more inspired when she learned that Dr Aderin-Pocock MBE had also struggled with dyslexia as a child’, said Arinze.
Many other scientists, past and present, in academia and outside it, at the bench or away from it were also nominated. This shows the breadth of impact science and scientific training has on people and indeed society. Follow us on Twitter throughout the day to discover more female STEM role model nominations from our scientists and staff.
Who was Ada Lovelace and why do we celebrate the life of a 19th century mathematician?
Ada Lovelace Day, a day for commemorating the woman known as the world’s first computer programmer, is an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM. The main aim of this day is to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.
Lady Ada, the daughter of the famous romantic poet Lord Byron and Anne Milbanke, was born on 10 December 1815. She was a women of many talents but had a particular interest in mathematics. She is most well known for her work with her friend and philosopher Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, an early idea for a general-purpose computer. Ada found relative fame when she expanded on an article by an Italian mathematician, in which she elaborated on the use of machines through the manipulation of symbols.
Her choice to study and specialise in mathematics was highly exceptional and unusual for a woman in 19th century England. She was called the Enchantress of Numbers by her fellow scientific collaborators, which is considered an amazing accolade. Her passion and vision for technology have made her a powerful symbol for women in a field that employs a few. Find out more about Ada Lovelace and the day celebrating her life and achievements on the website Finding Ada.
Portrait of Ada Lovelace by Alfred Edward Chalon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons