Mar 24 2009
This post is off-topic, but I signed up to pick your tech heroine and then publish your blog post any time on Tuesday 24th March 2009 in commemoration of Ada Lovelace.
I thought long and hard about which of the many brilliant and inspirational women I should write about. Ada Lovelace is clearly getting plenty of coverage. I expect Amazing Grace Hopper is another popular choice. I almost chose the tragic tale of Hypatia. I ponder her fate when confronted with people who lecture me on faith and morality.
However, my choice is unusual and personal in that it is a woman about whom I really know very little. Dr Elizabeth Alexander trained as a geologist and went on to become one of the world’s first female radio astronomers. Educated at Cambridge at a time when women were not allowed to be full members of the university (that didn’t happen until 1947!), she nevertheless received a first class degree and went on to obtain a PhD. She married and moved to Singapore where she worked as a geologist until escaping to New Zealand just before Singapore fell to the Japanese. It was in New Zealand that she undertook her pioneering work on radar, which was crucial to the war effort. She received little recognition as her work was top secret for obvious reasons. I would have liked to have met her (she died before I was born) but nevertheless she has served as an inspiration to me throughout my life, reminding me that female intelligence persists despite all the hardships and obstacles the world throws in our way and for all the fame and glory heaped upon the - usually male - characters that steal the limelight, we should always remember the quiet dedication of the “invisible” women working behind the scenes.
There is a short article about her in
and a more detailed paper:
Dr Elizabeth Alexander: First Female Radio Astronomer .
She was also my grandmother.