Eugenie Clark

Thanks to GGSTEM reader Carrie Weiner Campbell, who suggested marine biologist Eugenie Clark for Grandma got STEM

The New York Times reported on February 25, 2015 that Clark has passed away.

The Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame notes that she was known as the “shark lady” and was the founding director of the Mote Marine Laboratory (established in 1955 as the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory).

The Washington Post  described her as “an unabashed adventurer and prolific researcher” and said she “traveled the globe to study reef fish, sharks, and mollusks. She made 71 dives in submersibles, a practice that is still done by a relatively small number of explorers, plunging at one point to 12,000 feet.”

The photo above is in the public domain and comes from the U.S. Department of Labor with the caption American ichthyologist Eugenie Clark, at a Women’s Bureau, Region IV HerStory event held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

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JoAnne Growney


From a STEM grandmother in Silver Spring, MD
Six of my seven granddaughters are school age; they all like math.
During recent visits, I have asked them to tell me about that liking.

WE like math!     by JoAnne Growney and six of her granddaughters — Carly Harrity (5th grade, age 11), Shayla Growney (5th grade, age 10), Mika Yamamoto (3rd grade, age 9), Emma Harrity (3rd grade, age 8), Serena Growney (2nd grade, age 7), Ami Yamamoto (1st grade, age 6).

Growney_1Sisters Emma (left) and Carly (right)

Emma, 3rd grade, likes multiplication. She likes finding different ways to get the same answer. Like 6 = 2*3 and 6 = 3+3 and stuff like that.  Carly, 5th grade, likes math “pretty well.” She likes using information to solve a problem. Like if you have 20 party favors and 8 friends attending the party, how many can you give to each.

Growney_2Cousins Shayla (left) and Serena (right)

Shayla, 5th grade, really likes division. She likes hard division problems involving 2 or 3 or 4 digits, problems that do not come out even. If dividing 3 into 5432, she draws a box in which she writes 5000 and performs a division, and then puts 400 into the box and performs a second division, and so on. She was proud to tell me that she is always in the advanced math class in her grade and that she always checks her answers. Still, in the evening when we chatted about math via Face-Time, she smiled with delight to tell me she had no math homework that evening.

Serena, 2nd grade, was the most daring of the bunch. She would make-up and try new problems that she didn’t even know how to do — questions like “Find a bunch of numbers that add up to 12.” Serena likes to work quickly and sometimes needs to be reminded to avoid errors by double-checking her answer. With a smile she posed for me a many-factors multiplication calculation whose last factor was 0.


Growney_3Sisters Ami (left) and Mika (right)

Ami, 1st grade, spoke quietly but seemed perhaps to like math best of all. She said that she likes thinking about math problems, thinking about how to solve them. When she thinks about them her head feels good.

When I talked with Mika, 3rd grade, she was just home from a 6-hour car-trip and excited about solving math questions from her parents involving the car’s odometer. If our starting was 698 and our number now is 769, how far did we travel? If the total distance is 378 miles, how many miles is half-way? One-third?

JGrowney-GGSTEMAbout the grandmother: JoAnne Growney is a retired math professor who blogs about math and poetry at She has this to say about her relationship with mathematics:

As a girl, I liked math and was good at it. Encouraging me to stick with the subject was the fact that my senior high mathematics teacher was a woman. On the other hand, in the background was the common notion that boys are better at math than girls. And that smart girls are not attractive. Novels like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle had given me a dream of becoming a writer, but the practical situation was that Westminster College offered me a science scholarship. Prodded by the wisdom of my mother who had been widowed and needed career training to support a family, I prepared to be a math teacher and after graduation began to teach in a school district near Philadelphia. Lots of circumstances later (including an MA at Temple and a PhD at the University of Oklahoma) I became a professor at Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University. There, one day, a colleague asked, “JoAnne, how old were you when you knew you wanted to be a mathematician?” Since then, I have thought long and hard about the answer I gave: “I never wanted to be a mathematician.” I stumbled into the career. And it has been good for me.

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Seeking GGSTEM (Junior) Reporters

GGSTEM is initiating a project to connect kids to senior women in STEM fields.  The kids will contribute posts to GGSTEM as reporters.  This could be a great activity for afterschool groups or classroom assignments.

To participate, the reporters can use the following guide:

Grandma Got STEM Reporter Prep Sheet

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The Grandma got STEM (GGSTEM) project was started to present examples of senior women who have made contributions in those fields. Some of the posts are written by the women themselves, and others are written by people who want to celebrate their work.   The project counters the idea that grandmothers are not technically or scientifically inclined. That’s where you come in! Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Pick an area of science, engineering, technology and mathematics that interests you. There are tons to choose from!
  2. Form a team of 1-3 people interested in that same area.
  3. Use the internet to find someone you would like to interview who is not yet featured in Grandma got STEM. The woman does not need to have grandchildren, but she should be of that general age. It is a little tricky to figure out people’s general age, so maybe an adult can help you navigate that. Alternatively, you can pick a historical figure.
  4. Request an interview if the person is alive, or do some research if they are a historical figure.
  5. Prepare a list of questions to ask the person (or to research).
  6. Conduct the interview or research.
  7. Prepare your post. It should have at least one picture. The picture can come from the woman, or if it is from the internet, please make sure we have permission to post it.
  8. Email a draft of your article to Rachel Levy at Include your names and the name of any people who helped you, so we can give everyone credit.
  9. We’ll work together to edit the draft and create a final post!
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Esther Conwell

av1235_ConwellPortrait.previewThank you to David Epley, who passed along this link in remembrance of University of Rochester Professor of Chemistry Esther Cronwell.    The article states that “Conwell was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama in 2010. She was a pioneer in the field of semiconductor research which university officials say ultimately revolutionized modern computers.”

The picture above is a portrait of Conwell in 1960 as a Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award recipient.  Photo used with permission of  The Walter P. Reuther Library.

If any GGSTEM readers would like to add a personal remembrance, that would be super!

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Ann Baker-Smith

Thank you to Jimi Cullen, who suggested I repost his blogpost about his grandmother on GGSTEM!  Jimi’s blog focusses on his thoughts, interests, and experiences in mathematics, theoretical computer science, and with STEM ethics and diversity.

Jimi writes:

Today (October 14) is Ada Lovelace day: a day to recognise the contribution of women in STEM fields, many of whom haven’t received the recognition they deserve over the centuries up to now. It’s a good day to talk about admirable women in STEM, and whilst the day is named after one very worthy woman, it’s also a good opportunity to emphasise that there are and have been many great female scientists.

I decided that today, Ada Lovelace day and four days after the second anniversary of her death, would be a good day to blog about my grandmother, Ann Rosemary Baker-Smith (1): mathematician, businesswoman, and pioneering programmer.

Ann Baker-Smith

Ann was very modest and didn’t often talk about her career and achievements, and unfortunately not much is known for sure about her scientific pursuits. After she died two years ago after a very short illness, I asked her close remaining family members about it, but sadly the people who would have known the stories had already passed away themselves. She deserves a much better and fuller blog post than this, but I’ll try to fill in what little she told me with relevant anecdotes to make up for the lack of details.

She was born into a large working class family in North London, with no family tradition of pursuing higher education. From a young age she was intelligent and capable, and never one to shy from a gamble, so she became the first in her family to go to university, where she studied mathematics.

People sometimes ask me what drew me to mathematics, and whether anyone in my family was a mathematician. My mind always goes to my grandmother, but in fact our mathematical interests are quite different. While I’m interested in the abstract and theoretical, she was always drawn to useful, applicable mathematics. When I was about 16 and just thinking about doing a maths degree, she asked me what area of maths I was interested in. I didn’t really know, but I’d just finished reading Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh, so I said I was interested in number theory… to which her response was “really? Sequences of numbers and things? Boring!”.

So when it came time for her to pursue postgraduate study, she chose a more tangible field: she started a PhD in geometry. She later gave me a small box of wooden models of various geometric shapes which she’d kept from her PhD days. Although she had moved on from academic mathematics, she never lost her interest in it.

Her doctoral studies did not go as smoothly as she would have hoped. Her supervisor died when she was only half way through. Although the university found her a replacement supervisor, they did not get on well at all. A PhD is tough in the best of circumstances, and support systems were not as good then as they are now, so she dropped out without finishing her thesis. This was the end of her academic career, but far from the end of her contributions to science and technology.

She had no background in physics, but what is physics if not applied mathematics (2)? She took a job for a short while as a physics teacher. Her no-nonsense approach to getting things done made her a capable teacher, although she would later laugh with me that she was often learning the material as she taught it to her students!

Later, she learned a skill which stayed with her for the rest of her life: she became a programmer. Unfortunately, from this point until the early 1990s I don’t know much about her career, but I believe she worked for IBM for a while.

When I was deciding to study computer science and mathematics, she tried to warn me about the rapidly changing nature of computing (and actually encouraged me to consider physics instead!). It’s easy to think about the differences between Python 2 and Python 3, but when I consider the paradigm shifts she saw between the late 1960s and the 2010s, I can see why she wanted to warn me!

After I was born, she and her second husband (Jim Baker-Smith) started a company called Datas, which was a portmonteau of ‘data’ and ‘asbestos’. She was programming again, creating bespoke database management software for business clients. (The other half of the business was training asbestos inspectors). She was the only programmer at the company, but was successful and had a good few clients who relied on her consistent coding.

As an old-school programmer who had learned on punch-cards, she did not particularly keep up with consumer technology later in her life. As a child I was surprised that she could make part of her living writing software, but that she was less comfortable with things like email. As I got older I realised just how much technical knowledge, ability, and experience she had, but that most of it was just for a different era of computing.

She was a very glamorous family woman who loved to have fun. She was an obstacle-overcoming, stereotype-busting mathematician and programmer. Although not famous like many of the women celebrated on Ada Lovelace day, I think she is a great example to show that women from all sorts of backgrounds have been in STEM, learning, teaching, and creating, for a long time. I’m very proud to be her grandson!

  1. She had three names in her lifetime: she was born Ann Chambers, then became Ann Cullen when she married my grandfather, and in 1995 married the love of her life, and became Ann Baker-Smith.
  2. Only teasing, physicists.


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Else Hoyrup

small_Else Hoyrup November 2011

My Autobiography: Science as Passion.

By Else Hoyrup

I am a Danish scientist, born in 1945. My life has been with its ups and downs, but nevertheless it has been a fulfilling life because of my social life and my research.

I started my adult life by getting a MSc in mathematics in 1969, with specialty in algebraic topology, which was a hot topic in those days. I later wrote an article On Torus Maps and Almost Periodic Movements (in English), which was published in 1972. Afterwards, I changed my course to history, sociology, psychology – but in relation to mathematics. And women’ studies, also in special relationship to mathematics. I wrote two books together with my first husband: Mathematics in Society: History, Education, and Ideology (in Danish) from 1973 and Women: Work and Intellectual Development (in Danish) from 1974. We were both inspired by the movements of the 60ies and 70ies, my husband especially by the political movement, and I especially by the feminist movement. The feminist movement was felt very exciting and refreshing to many women and gave women a new angle to both life and research, a connection that I am afraid is getting a little lost now by today’s demands on academia.

The Danish professor of history and gender history, Bente Rosenbeck, has just published a book Does Science have Gender: Women in Research (in Danish). She sent me a copy of the book with the dedication to me: To a True Pioneer. This made me very happy, of course.

Bibliographies and International Contacts

Until 1977, I had scholarships at the Mathematics Institute at Copenhagen University and at Roskilde University. After that, I got a job as research librarian in mathematics, physics, and history of science at Roskilde University Library and therefore I got a degree in librarianship. This new job gave me the possibility to specialize in bibliography. I wrote several bibliographies, some about mathematics and history of science, some about women in the history of science, my new specialty. The bibliographies I wrote about women were in English: Women and Mathematics, Science, and Engineering: A Bibliography, 1978 and Women of Science, Technology, and Medicine: A Bibliography, 1987. Quite unexpectedly my work with bibliographies also became a work of love, and of course my bibliographic work about women was especially a work of love.

My bibliographic work gave me many international contacts, and I was invited to two international conferences, one about the history of women in science in Veszprem in Hungary in 1983. Here I was appointed Vice President (for bibliography) of The Commission on the History of Women in Science, Technology, and Medicine, which is a subdivision of IUHPS=The International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science, an affiliate of UNESCO. The other international conference, I participated in in those days, was the International Congress of History of Science in Berkeley in 1985. How I loved to work with all these things and with other scholars!

The KRAKA-prize

In the 1990s I inherited some money from my parents. This gave me the possibility to donate money for a Danish prize in the field of gender studies, called the KRAKA-prize after a clever and smart woman in the old Nordic mythology. The prize was first awarded in 1999.

Retirement and Russian Studies

I retired early from the labor market and instead I continued my work with the history of science and history of women in science. I also studied Russian for many years, which was also a pleasure to me, because I have always had a passion for languages too. As a matter of fact, my motive with the Russian studies was to be able to read Sofya Kovalevskaya in Russian and that I did later with great pleasure. I used her story for my BA degree in Russian, lectured about her and wrote an article about her in Danish, Sofya Kovalevskaya: The First Professional Female Mathematician in the World, in 2004.

Current work

After the death of my second husband in 2004, I have a new partner. His passion for the moment is gears, especially the geometric form of gears that Euler found in the 1700s. But we have also had a close collaboration about a website about the history of physics and mathematics (in Danish). The new possibilities, which have opened up after the invention of the Internet and e-mails are fantastic! My partner does the formula stuff and the computer animations. As I have changed profile to history and biography, I do these things in our collaboration.

I have had two specialties in this work on the website: Newton’s life and work (and his psyche) and his priority dispute with Leibniz about the invention of the calculus. My other specialty has been the life and work of early women in the history of mathematics and physics. There were not many of them before the opening of the universities in the 1870s to women. And in our work with the website, we have not yet even reached the year 1800. An especially interesting early woman scholar is Sophie Brahe (1556 or 1559 to 1643). She was the clever little sister and astronomical assistant to Tycho Brahe. I have written about her in English on the website, you are visiting right now GGSTEM=Grandma Got STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). My article appeared July, 22 2013 and you can read it here.

My work on Newton was able to be published, both on our website and in a psychiatric newsletter, but only in Danish. The article in the psychiatric newsletter came in 2011 and is called: Newton’s Crisis. It tells the story of a little known fact: Newton suffered a severe mental breakdown in 1693. His masterpiece, Principia, was published in 1687. I have tried to analyze some possible reasons for the breakdown: Loss of creativity, overwork and an unhealthy life style, among other things. After he recovered, his personality changed: From an almost autistic scientist at the University of Cambridge to a man, who enjoyed having power over others in his London years, where he had administrative top positions.

My own studies and my work have always been very important to my cheerfulness, even though my life also has had its share of downs.

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Marilyn Steneken

Keeping the cubs warmThanks to Dr. Marilyn Steneken, who submitted this post, edited from an article posted on August 14, 2014 by Heather Jones in Science, Using Gizmos.

Dr. Marilyn Steneken teaches 7th grade life science at a middle school in Sparta Township in New Jersey. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Science from Montclair University and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Marygrove College. She completed her Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership from Walden University in 2011. She has always recognized the benefits of e-learning for students. As an advocate for online education, her dissertation focused the relationship between environmental literacy and students’ participation in global online collaboration. In 2003, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching for secondary science education. In the last two years, she has worked with the NJ Department of Education as a member of the Next Generation Science Standards Adoption Committee and Advisory Team.

Dr. Steneken or Dr. S (as some of her students call her) has a passion for science and education that is unmet. Even after 27 years of teaching, her “love” of science education is inspiring. In addition to being an educator, she is an active member of the scientific community. In 2005, she participated in a WHOI oceanographic expedition and traveled to the hydrothermal vents in the mini-sub Alvin (pictured below). She shares, “Since then, the chemosynthetic ecosystems of the deep sea have fascinated me.”

Boarding “Alvin”_steneken

As a way to instill this same enthusiasm for science in her students, she often provides hands-on experiences. A pioneer in problem based learning (PBL), she has been working with the NJ Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to raise brook trout with her classes since 1994. The Trout in the Classroom program is now in over 120 schools.  Recently Dr. S. received a grant to bring 3D printers and a digital scanner into the middle school.  She hopes to inspire students and teachers alike to utilize this state-of-the-art technology.

Marilyn also added these personal notes:

As a certified scuba diver, I have traveled to many exotic locations. My many adventures include a journey through the Galapagos Islands, zip lining in Costa Rica, diving the reefs of the Caribbean, and an African safari. I infuse her personal experiences into my curriculum so that students appreciate the global interconnections of our environment.
While my passion lies in the field of science, the most important thing in my life is family. Having five grandchildren, ranging from 4 to 12 in age, my favorite pastime is spending time laughing and exploring the world with them. No matter how old I am, I will always savor the kid inside myself and nurture her sense of wonder.
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