HYPATIA
350–370 - 415 AD

“exceedingly beautiful and fair of form. . . in speech articulate and logical, in her actions prudent and public-spirited, and the rest of the city gave her suitable welcome and accorded her special respect.” Suda Lexicon, 10th Century

Hypatia was a Greek astronomer, philosopher, and the earliest known female mathematician, her work sadly did not survive the test of time, but we know from other sources and commentaries that she exceeded her father (the famous scholar Theon) in mathematics and advanced his studies on geometry and number theory.

Hypatia commented and edited several ancient texts, such as Diophantus’ Arithmetica and is also known to have worked on Ptolemy’s Book III of the Almagest, the paramount resource for astronomical studies - it described a geocentric universe - until Copernicus came along. 
Being able to range over diverse fields, Hypatia proved to have a very versatile mind. She seems to have been instrumental in the invention of the hydrometer (measures relative density of liquids) and the astrolabe (2d model of the celestial sphere).

Hypatia lived in Alexandria in an unstable historical moment. She was a well-respected public figure, proud of her Greek heritage. Her lectures on Neoplatonist philosophy always attracted a wide audience, but soon ignited hatred in those who considered her pagan and heretical. 
Rumors began to spread accusing her of being the reason why Orestes, the Roman prefect of Alexandria, whom she served as a personal advisor, would not reconcile a dispute with Cyril, the bishop.

In March 415 AD she was brutally murdered by Christian extremists.

We now remember Hypatia perhaps more because of the tragic circumstances of her death, rather than her intellectual contributions.

In the 20th century, she arose as a symbol of enlightenment in the face of ignorance and prejudice and as an icon for the feminist movement.

Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories

#womeninscience #womeninstem #womensrights #philosophy #astronomy#ancientgreece #illustration #hypatia #polaroid #sciart #scicomm#sciencecomics


YOUYOU TU

1930-Present

Youyou Tu is was the first Chinese (and woman!) pharmacist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (2015) for a discovery that has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has isolated and characterized the compound artemisinin (qinghaosu), still used to fight malaria.

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In a way, artemisinin is a product of the Vietnam War. In the 1960s North Vietnam asked the Chinese allies for help against the greatest and tiniest adversary in the war: the one-celled parasite Plasmodium. Mosquitoes carrying this parasite cause malaria, which was killing more soldiers on both sides than actual combat.

It is worth noting that iIn the mid-60s, China was in the midst ofamid the Cultural Revolution, a time in which intellectuals were persecuted and often tortured. Mao Zedong however needed capable researchers to find a solution to the pressing Malaria problem. So, calling up more than 500 people, he launched a covert effort called “project 523”, after the day it started: May 23rd, 1967. When Youyou was recruited to work on “523” she was sent to the Hainan province and had to leave her 4-yo daughter in an orphanage, since her husband was detained in a labour camp.

Thanks to her training in traditional herbal medicine, she thought of looking through ancient manuscripts for hints on antimalarial formulations. In the ‘Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies’ (340 CE), she found a mention of a medication based on Artemisia annua, the sweet wormwood. She tested several methods to preserve the active ingredient and tried the plant extracts on mice, monkeys and on herself.

She had solved it!

But it was a the breakthrough that could not be published. At the end of the day as, it was a secret military project. The results were published in China Oonly after Mao’s death, the results were published in China but the authors were not named. In 1982, Tu’s name appears on the international journal The Lancet.

It was so extremely difficult to trace back her contributions back!

Youyou Tu is often referred to as the “3 NOs professor”: no doctorate, no affiliation with national academies and no abroad working experience. Through this story we remember her, and her contributions to science.

Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories

 

#womeninscience #womeninstem #plantsmakepeoplehappy #malaria #nobel #chinesemedicine #workhard #illustration #polaroid #sciart #scicomm #sciencecomics


RITA LEVI-MONTALCINI

1909-2012

 "Don't fear difficult moments, the best comes from them."

These inspiring words come from one of the most determined and courageous scientists of the 20th century: Rita Levi-Montalcini.

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 Rita and her twin sister Paola were born in the early 1900s and raised according to traditional principles. Pursuing a professional career was highly discouraged - but Rita had set her mind to study medicine and was unstoppable! She enrolled at the University of Turin and graduated in Medicine and Surgery in 1936. She trained with neurohistologist Giuseppe Levi, where she learnt how to visualize nerve cells under a microscope.

 Soon after her graduation, the fascist regime published the “Manifesto for the defence of Race” (1938), de facto banning “inferior races” from education. From that moment on, being of Jewish origins, she was repeatedly forced to flee.

 During wartime, Rita was able to withstand the fascist oppression and prejudice against women with tenacity and intelligence. She had to practice her medical profession incognito and endured the challenges and solitude that come with being at the forefront of science.

 She turned her bedroom into a small laboratory. With only a microscope, a microtome and an incubator, she studied neurological chick development. Back then, some eggs were her food - and others her research tools.

 After the war, she moved to the US to have the most scientifically productive moments of her life. In 1952, along with biochemist Stanley Cohen, she isolated the nerve-growth factor (NGF). Both were awarded the Nobel Prize for in Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for this discovery.

 She returned to Italy in 1977 and in 2001 she was made Senator for life by the President of Italy.

 Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories

#womeninscience #womeninstem #nobel #nobelitaly #science #montalcini #ritalevimontalcini #illustration #polaroid #sciart #scicomm #sciencecomics #bestheroine #heartandbrains


ADA LOVELACE

1815-1852

Sci-Illustrate is celebrating Ada-Lovelace day, a day marked to celebrate women in STEM, their accomplishments, and really, just their mere presence, anywhere (coz women rock).

Featured below is the lovely artwork of Dr. Eleonora Adami from the Sci-illustrate team. Through Women in Science, Sci-Illustrate Stories. we bring to you profiles of incredible women who touch lives with their passion, mentorship, and scientific accomplishments. 

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 More about Ada, she has often been cited as the first computer programmer, and the first person to truly foresee the creative potential and possibilities of computing.

 Her work between 1842-43, simply called “Notes” was the first computer programme. She would label her notes from A to G. In Note G (hints of which you see in the illustration) was the first algorithm tailored for implementation on a computer ( specifically the Analytical Engine - Charles Baggage’s general-purpose computer) to compute Bernoulli numbers. The engine was never completed, her program was never tested.

 Sci-Illustrate #sciart #scicomm #womeninscience #healthcare #inspiration #research #design


MARTINE BERTEREAU - BARONESS DE BEAUSOLEIL

1600-ca.1642

Martine Bertereau was a mining engineer, and the first female mineralogist ever recorded.

Born to a noble family engaged in mining, she then also married an expert in the field, Jean de Chastelet, Baron de Beausoleil et d'Auffenbach. He was the commissioner general, responsible for the mines of Hungary, under the Holy Roman Emperor.

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In 1626, they both received an appointment from King Henry IV to survey France for new possible mine locations. During their time in Brittany, provincial clergymen thought their work involved sorcery and their home (well, a castle) was searched for incriminating material. Nothing was found, but they were forced to leave France, and could return only under King Louis XIII.

. Martine wrote two pamphlets documenting their work. .

The first publication (1632) describes mineral deposits in France as well as the somewhat ‘esoteric’ use of dowsing rods to locate water (this is likely what made the clergymen suspicious). It also contains many practical and scientific considerations that allow us to understand the state-of-the-art in the hydrogeology of the 17th Century. . The second (La restitution de pluton, 1640) is a very curious text, written in the form of a poem and addressed to Cardinal de Richelieu. It described her unusual position as a woman in the mining industry, but had to serve primarily as a plea to be paid for the work they had undertaken! .

It is thought that the demand for money did not please the King and charges of witchcraft were finally moved against them. Both Jean and Martine died in prison.

Despite the sad ending to this story, it reminds us how, men and women, have always needed to speak up for ourselves and fight for our rights to usher in change. Go Martine!

Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories

#womeninscience #womeninstem #science #illustration #polaroid #sciart #scicomm #sciencecomics #bestheroine #sorcery #witch #mineralogy #hydrogeology


BEN BARRES

1954-2017

Barres was a trailblazer in the field of neurobiology and a passionate advocate for inclusion and diversity in science. He publicly described the difficulties faced by women in science and this is why we decided to feature him in this series; not because of his gender at birth.
As Barbara first, as Ben later, Barres made fundamental discoveries that redefined the importance of glial cells.

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His genius and his dedication showed early in life. A famous anecdote sees a young Barbara Barres being the only person in class (at MIT) to solve an AI problem and be told “Your boyfriend must have solved it for you”.

After completing an MD at the Dartmouth College in 1979 and a neurology residency at Cornell, he left medicine to fully concentrate on research. He embarked on a doctorate in neurobiology at Harvard to study the function of cation channels in glial cells.

This was the beginning of his fascination for the function of oligodendrocyte and their role in development and disease. Landmark contributions include: identification of factors derived by glial cells that promote synapse formation, characterization of myelin and assembly and formation of the blood-brain barrier.

Ben was also known for championing equal opportunities in science, offering a special perspective into gender bias. He not only described a system biased against women and minorities in general, but also wanted mentors to be held more accountable for the success and scientific development of their mentees and tried to offer ways to correct prejudiced behaviour. In his words (“Does gender matter?”, Nature 2006):

  • Enhance leadership diversity.

  • Enhance fairness in competitive selection processes

  • Establish institutional aids in balancing career/family responsibilities and career-transition fellowships

  • Support: “It doesn't only have to be women that support women”

  • Encourage: “teach young scientists how to survive in a prejudiced world.”

@chiosv brought Ben’s profile to our attention. Thank you!

Illustration and Post by Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories