The Smithsonian Institution has been uploading some of their extensive collection of historical photographs to Flickr. One of their sets is a collection of portraits of scientists and inventors. While most of the pictured scientists are bewhiskered men, there are a few women in the set:
Agnes Mary Clerke was born in 1842 in County Clerke, Ireland. While she did not make astronomical observations herself, she instead interpreted and summarized the results of current astronomical research. She was a member of the British Astronomical Association and made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society. A number of her books are available through Google Books:
- A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century (first published in 1885)
- The System of The Stars (first published 1890)
- The Herschels and Modern Astronomy (first published 1895)
- Problems in Astrophysics (first published 1903)
- Modern Cosmogonies (first published 1905)
Tatiana Ehrenfest (also known as Tatyana Alexeyevna Afanasyeva and Tatjana Ehrenfest-Afanassjewa) was born in Kiev in 1876. At that time women were not allowed to enroll in the universities in Russia, instead there were special programs which allowed women to take courses in engineering, medicine, and teaching. Tatiana attended such a program in St. Petersburg. She later studied mathematics at the University of Göttingen, where she met her husband, Paul Ehrenfest. In 1912 they moved to Leiden, where Paul succeeded Hendrik Lorentz as a professor at the University of Leiden. They worked closely together and Tatiana published a number of papers on statistical mechanics, entropy and the role of chance in physical processes. She was also interested in methods of teaching mathematics - perhaps it isn't too surprising that one of the Ehrenfests' daughters, Tanja van Aardenne-Ehrenfest, also became a mathematician. A couple of Tatiana's publications:
- Ehrenfest-Afanassjewa T. "On the Use of the Notion "Probability" in Physics" Am. J. Phys. 26: 388 (1958)
- Ehrenfest-Afanassjewa T. "Exercises in Experimental Geometry" (originally published in German in 1931). This is a treatise on how to teach geometry to children.
Last, but certainly not least, is a portrait of Marie Sklodowska Curie, one of the most famous women in physics. She was born in Warsaw in 1867 and received a general education there. She eventually ended up at the Sorbonne in Paris, where she earned degrees in physics and mathematical sciencies - and met her husband, Physics Professor Pierre Curie. The Curies initially worked together in their research on radioactive elements, but after Pierre was killed in an accident in 1906, she continued the research on her own. She shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre and Antoine Becquerel for their "research on the radiation phenomena". Maria Curie also received the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery and characterization of radium. She died in 1934 of aplastic anaemia, likely caused by radiation exposure, missing by only a single year the award of the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to her daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie.
The Smithsonian definitely selected portraits of an illustrious group of scientists. There are more portraits in the collection available at “Scientific Identity: Portraits from the Dibner Library”
Tags: women scientists, Agnes Mary Clerke, Tatiana Ehrenfest-Afanaseva, Marie Curie, Smithsonian