International Day of Women and Girls in Science: STORIES OF WOMEN REBELS IN ASTRONOMY by Elisabeth Vermeer
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
STORIES OF WOMEN REBELS IN ASTRONOMY
by Elisabeth Vermeer
Atelier Design of the Universe, Italy
February 11th, 2021 @ 18:30
Women have always been observing the sky and the stars, and for this reason, in the past, they were sentenced, or considered sorceresses and put to death. Later on, they met infinite obstacles and worked in the shadow behind the back of their fathers, husbands or brothers and even today the challenge of making a career in the field of astrophysics seems to be hurdling.
Traveling through history, we cross the fates of brilliant and determined women astronomers like Greek Aglaonice, Hypatia of Alexandria, Mariam Al-Asturlabi, Hildegard von Bingen, discoverers of comets like Lucretia Caroline Herschel and Maria Mitchell, and the so-called “Harvard Computers” like Williamina Fleming, Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt.
From Italian history, we know that women’s studies and work in astronomy were officially not supported or promoted at all. From the 16th to the 19th century, their research was mostly commissioned by the Vatican, though the same Vatican had sentenced Galileo Galilei. We may consider the Manfredi Sisters, Maddalena and Teresa, the great grand-mothers of today’s women astronomers, and later Caterina Scarpellini who was forced to publish the results of her work anonymously. At that time, Caterina could never have become Director of the Roman Observatory but she encouraged undoubtedly the progress of women in the studies of astronomy.
Without the Fascist period and its opposition against women’s emancipation, a female Director in an Italian Observatory certainly would have arrived earlier. The first one was Florentine Margherita Hack in 1964. Professor of astronomy at the University of Trieste, she directed the Astronomical Observatory of Trieste for twenty years. She always sustained the evolution of young woman researchers in astrophysics and she would have been proud of the success obtained by radio astronomer Marica Branchesi, a pioneer in the collaboration between astronomers and physicists.
I would also like to mention Amalia Ercoli Finzi, one of the highest international experts in aerospace engineering, scientific consultant of the NASA, the International and the European Space Agency as a symbol of all the women scientists of the skies that passed serious obstacles but disregarded any kind of discrimination and ferocious prejudice. One of the most beautiful features in the research of women astronomers is the conservation of unchanged astonishment for the beauty of the universe.
Landscapist, historian of art and architecture, semiologist. Professional education in Paris, Vienna, and Boston. French cosmopolitan with research and life experience in four continents. Founder of Atelier Design of the Universe which has been engaged since 2010 in the production and promotion of interdisciplinary projects rooted in astronomy, astrophysics, mathematics, entangling with other disciplines of human sciences, culture, and contemporary art. Looking for a synthesis that reconciles her numerous interests in a homogenous line of planning, Vermeer founds the twin studio of Design of the Universe, dedicated to “green projects”, from the design of contemporary gardens to green roofs and the battle against climate change and air and water pollution, under the brand name Design for Everyday Life. Furthermore, she is engaged in active commitment against gender inequality and social injustice. Passionate of archaeology and architecture, inspired by Renaissance spirit, Baroque, and Art Nouveau, she sets up her suggestive sceneries between Rome, Florence, and Paris.
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