Dr May Edward Chinn

Anyone want to write a post about her?

Thanks to Catherine Roberts, who posted this link on Facebook.  I have not checked the sources, but it sounds like a story worth pursuing.

http://www.womenyoushouldknow.net/how-is-it-possible-we-never-learned-about-this-woman-meet-dr-may-edward-chinn/

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Hemavathy Appan

hemavathy-pic

This is a story of my mom, Dr. Hemavathy, a pediatrician in India. She was born in Kariapattinam, a small village in southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu. The village had one school that only went up to the equivalent of 4th grade. The medium of instruction was Tamil. As was common in Indian families at the time, she was part of a large joint family consisting of her parents, five of her other siblings, and five of her eldest brother’s children. Mom showed interest in academics early on, despite the lack of real opportunity. After a few years, the family moved to Chennai, a large city and the capital of Tamil Nadu. One of the first challenges she faced was having to ace an English proficiency test to be able to join a public school in Chennai that provided English as a medium of instruction.

By the time mom finished high school in 1967, her dad had retired and her eldest brother was the sole earning member of the family with 12 dependents. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.

Mom became a doctor almost entirely by chance – she had excellent grades in her high school finals, but she didn’t have anyone to counsel her on career options. She was considering getting a bachelor’s degree in Physics.  A family friend who happened to visit them saw her scores and convinced her to apply to study medicine, telling her that she had a good chance of getting admission. Given the family financial situation, the understanding was that she could only join if she also got a scholarship. Her grades helped her get a scholarship, and she was in! She started medical school at Stanley Medical College in 1968, one of 30 women in her class of 120.

Money was tight all through her college days. Mom used to walk to college instead of taking the bus, and she would borrow medical books from the library or from friends instead of buying them. She did this to save up scholarship money left over after college tuition to help towards family expenses. After getting her medical degree she started working for hospitals in Chennai while also getting a diploma in child health. She moved to Hosur, a small town in Tamil Nadu after her wedding, where she and my dad raised my family.

In Hosur, she worked all day at a public hospital, which provides free medical treatment to low-income patients. Her specialty was neonatal care, pediatrics, and tubal sterilization. She also started a private practice in the evenings, remodeling our home’s front balcony into a medical examination room. The practice had some challenges early on but slowly grew to be very successful. I still remember a day in my childhood when she once got paid peanuts, and I mean that literally! One of her patients was a peanut farmer who had cash flow problems and he asked to pay her with a sack of peanuts for a year of medical care.

Throughout her career, she won multiple awards and commendations from the government for her service. Now retired, mom continues to work at her private practice she started over 30 years ago. She works 8 to 10 hours every day seeing patients from all walks of life. Her patients travel from many nearby villages because they trust her with their health needs. Mom also consults for several hospitals as a specialist in OB-GYN and pediatrics. She shows no signs of slowing down and says she will keep working because her patients need her.

My mom’s life story has taught me a key life lesson – resilience. No matter what life throws at you, whether you have personal challenges or problems at work, work through it taking action to improve your situation. How you respond to challenges is entirely up to you. Develop a resilient attitude and you can conquer anything.

hemavathy-parents

Mom and Dad together when visiting us in Texas.

GGSTEM would like to thank Preetha Appan, who saw our call for international submissions and contributed this post in honor of her mother’s birthday.

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Iris Runge

Iris Runge: A Pioneer in applied mathematics and electronics

By Else Hoyrup, Danish mathematician and historian of science

elsehoyrup@mail.dk

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This image of Runge appears on the Humboldt University Site.

Iris Runge (1888-1966) was a German applied mathematician, physicist, and inventor. In her family there were many scientists. Her father was the famous professor in applied mathematics at Göttingen University, Carl Runge (1856-1927). He was a specialist in numerical analysis and one of his results was “Runge-Kutta’s approximation formula”, which is used to solve differential equations numerically. Iris Runge also came to work with numerical analysis later, when she became one of the first “industrial mathematicians.” So she followed in her father’s footsteps, but nevertheless she had a very independent mind through all her life. This independence was very appreciated, both in her family, and at her work.

Iris R. was employed as a mathematical problem-solver at the German corporations, Osram and Telefunken. At first she worked at Osram with research and calculations on incandescent light bulbs. Later she was transferred from Osram to Telefunken, where she worked with radio tubes (electron tubes). Iris R. just loved to calculate and solve problems, and the more complicated problems, the better! This we know from her letters to her family. She was so proficient at her work that, although she was a woman in a man’s world, she became highly respected as a specialist.

Iris Runge was a pioneer, both as an industrial mathematician and as a woman. At her time, it was still hard for women to get a chance to work professionally.

Among the special fields, with which Iris R. worked at Osram and Telefunken, we can mention:

  1. Numerical analysis (mathematics) – before the computers
  2. Applied statistics. She co-authored one of the first textbooks on statistical quality control in mass production. The book was only published in German, so although it was an important and pioneering work, it did not receive the international attention, it ought to have got
  3. Optics
  4. Material science (physics)
  5. Electronics
  6. Besides all this, Iris Runge also made some inventions in physics, electronics, and technology.

An intellectual family in wartimes and before and after

Iris Runge’s family was very culturally interested and they had many English-speaking contacts, because they mastered English. It was really an internationally-oriented family.

But already in the 1930s, there came much political turmoil in Germany because of Hitler and the Nazis. Iris Runge and her family were very conscious and active socially and politically.

During World War II, Iris Runge was forced to stay at Osram and Telefunken. She was not happy with her work anymore, because some of the electronics she worked with could be used in the war. She was not a Nazi. She contemplated emigration to the United States, like her sister and brother-in-law, the great mathematician, Richard Courant (1888-1972), who was a Jew. She had hoped to be able to get an assistantship with the famous Belgian-American historian of science, George Sarton (1884-1956). But this job did not materialize, because he could not get the money for it. So she was forced to stay on at Osram and Telefunken in order to earn a living.

Iris Runge’s brother, Wilhelm Runge (1895-1987), was a pioneer in radar technology, and because radar was very important in the war, he had to work directly under a military contract – and to be a member of the Nazi party.  But no sources mention that he was a confirmed Nazi.  As a matter of fact, the whole Runge family was a cosmopolitan non-Nazi family.

We can contrast Wilhelm Runge with another German military engineer, the rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun (1912-1977). He was definitely a confirmed Nazi, and he used concentration camp prisoners as slave workers. This has been shown in a TV documentary about Wernher von Braun and the Russian rocket pioneer, Sergei Korolev (1907-1966). After the war, Wernher von Braun was headhunted to the United States, where he became the leader of NASA’s space program. He became very popular in America.

To return to our heroine, Iris Runge, she worked at the crossroads of mathematics, physics, technology, and industry.

After the war, it became difficult for German scientists in military-related jobs to continue their work in Germany in private businesses, because the allied occupation authorities had misgivings about this. Some of the scientists emigrated to the United States (as Wernher von Braun), or to the Soviet Union. Many of those, who chose to remain in Germany, continued their work at the universities. Iris Runge herself also had a university career after the war. She ended as a professor of physics at Humboldt University in Berlin. After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, this university was situated in Eastern Berlin.

Although some of Iris Runge’s work with radio tubes (electron tubes) could be used by the military, the civilian possibilities for applications were even greater. Just think of the radio, television and all other electronics. The electronics of Iris Runge and many others heralded our modern IT-society.

Iris Runge was indeed a pioneer, both professionally, and as a woman scientist in a man’s world.

References

Renate Tobies: Iris Runge: A life at the Crossroads of Mathematics, Science, and Industry. / Translated by Valentine A. Pakis. Birkhäuser/Springer, 2012. 442 pp. ISBN: 978-3-0348-0229-1. Originally published in German under the title “Morgen möchte ich wieder 100 herrliche Sachen ausrechnen”: Iris Runge bei Osram und Telefunken. 2010.

Else Hoyrup: Iris Runge: A Pioneer in Industrial Mathematics. [Review essay of Renate Tobies’ book]. Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) Newsletter, Vol. 46, No. 3, May-June 2016, pp. 14-17.

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Williamina Paton Fleming

Thanks to librarian Sam Kome, who passed along this clipping from the Library of Congress archive of an article about Fleming in a newspaper from North Dakota October 18, 1906. Willison, Williams County, N.D.  The headline notes that “Mrs. Fleming has discovered six out of nine new stars.”

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Here is the article in the context of the page, between The Duel and A Nervous Wreck and right above A Wonderful Rose Garden.

Williamina Paton Fleming.png

More about Fleming (May 15, 1857 – May 21, 1911) here on Wikipedia about her work with Pickering at the Harvard College Observatory, including her discovery of the Horsehead Nebula.

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Mary Putnam Jacobi

Thank you to Chemist Katherine Van Heuvelen, who pointed out this book:

Headstrong_book_cover

in which Jacobi is the first woman featured.  According to the the book, Jacobi was the “first woman admitted to France’s École du  Médecine.”

An Amazon review by InvisibleMonkeyhouse notes “The pivotal line of this book is delivered by Hertha Ayrton, who was a scientist, an author, a close friend of Marie Curie, and the inventor of a fan that dispersed noxious gas away from soldiers. She is quoted as saying: “Personally I do not agree with sex being brought into science at all. The idea of ‘women and science’ is entirely irrelevant. Either a woman is a good scientist or she is not; in any case she should be given opportunities, and her work should be studied from the scientific, not the sex, point of view.”

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Hertha Marks Ayrton

Hertha Marks Ayrton’s 162nd birthday

Thank you to Mathematician Sharon Lubkin, who called my attention to the Google doodle above, which was posted in honor of what would be Hertha Marks Ayrton’s 162nd birthday.   This led me to a fun jaunt through her Wikipedia page – all of which was new to me.  Check it out!

According to this page, you can read more here:

Appleyard, Rollo. The History of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. London: 1939; Ayrton, Hertha.

The Electric Arc. London: 1902; Crawford, Elizabeth. The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928.London: 1999;

Girton College Register, 1869-1946;

Hirsch, Pam.Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon: feminist, artist and rebel. London:1998; Mason, Joan.

“Hertha Ayrton and the Admission of Women to the Royal Society of London,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society. London: 1991;

Sharp, Evelyn.Hertha Ayrton: A Memoir. London: 1926.

 

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Thelma Prince

Thanks to librarian Allegra Swift, who passed along this tweet

ThelmaPrince

pointing to this article about Thelma Prince, who contributed to the development of the polio vaccine.

 

 

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