Ada Lovelace Day 2015

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, created as an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Two years ago I wrote a blog listing women in science that had inspired me, and invited colleagues to provide their female inspirations from the STEM world. You can see the original blog here .

Since then, there has been much attention on women in STEM, from government reports, the recent People Like Me campaign from WISE, and the infamous cases of “that” shirt and Tim Hunt’s remarks, about which debate still rages.

Athene Donald posted a blog yesterday encouraging us to examine our own biases and question whether we are doing our bit to supporting the next “Ada”. Interestingly, she mentions the implicit bias tests that many of us have been prompted to take, revealing a stronger association of men with science than women. I was shocked when I found a similar result for myself last year – I had a strong implicit bias for men and career vs women and home. The exact opposite of everything that I outwardly advocate and support. Since then I have been doing much exploring about bias and irrational thinking and can recommend “Irrationality: The enemy within” by Ben Goldacre (Foreword) and Stuart Sutherland (Author). There is no easy answer as to how to guard against these biases but I am starting to understand how and when they are most likely to come into play.

Undoubtedly exposure to diverse voices and personality could play a major role in challenging our biases. Over the past 2 years, Twitter has been a key part of broadening the diversity of my network and experience. I can engage in debates, discussions and everyday life with people across the world and across disciplines in a way that would have been a challenge before social media. Today then, for Ada Lovelace Day 2015, I offer you the social media version of my inspiration list. These people have opened my eyes wider, and for that, I thank them.

  • Jedidah Isler @JedidahIslerPhD Astrophysicist and 2015 TED Fellow
  • Mika McKinnon @mikamckinnon Field geophysicist and scifi consultant amongst many others
  • Sam Cristoforetti @astrosamantha    ISS astronaut
  • Nathalie Pettorelli @Petorelli     Ecologist, @SoapboxScience co-founder – Nathalie gave me the opportunity to stand on the South Bank in London and talk about aerosols, which re-ignited my love of science communication.
  • Ruth Mottram @ruth_mottram  climate scientist and glaciologist
  • Kate Marvel @DrKateMarvel climate scientist and science writer. Ex-cosmologist
  • Raychelle Burks  @DrRubidium Analytical chemist
  • Melissa Wilson Sayres @mwilsonsayres Sex chromosomes, populations and evolution. Brilliant posts on starting/running a lab
  • Jenny Martin @JennyMartin_UQ Crystallographer
  • Emma Johnston @DrEmmaLJohnston Professor of Marine Ecology and Ecotoxicology
  • Dr Heather Williams @alrightPET Senior Medical Physicist and @SCience_Grrl Director
 And if you are looking for something to do to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day 2015, why not do one of the things on the “Just one action for women in science” list, also started by Athene.

Ada Lovelace Day 2013: Which female scientists inspire us?

Ada Lovelace, 19th century British mathematici...

Ada Lovelace, 19th century British mathematician (1836). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Ada Lovelace Day* <> which aims to raise the profile of women working in STEM
subjects across the globe.

I emailed my list of women scientists whom I have admired, or from whom I have drawn inspiration to my work colleagues, and now I’m posting it here. Each of them are admired for different qualities or acheivements, and by no means do I admire 100% of any of many of them. Also, I do draw inspriation from male scientists and engineers and from non-scientists, but I list the women here in honour of Ada Lovelace Day. I have added in purple suggestions sent by my colleagues in response to my original email. Thank you!

The fore-runners
Laura Bassi
Rosalind Franklin
Marie Curie
Dorothy Hodgkin (recommend excellent biography by Georgina Ferry)
Lise Meitner
Rosalind Yalow
Mary Anning (
Beatrice Tinsley
Caroline Herschel ( )
Elisabeth Mann-Borgese
Marie Tharp (
Emmy Noether

Todays women
Athene Donald  her blog is great
Uta Frith
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Georgina Mace
Ann Druyan

And in my/our fields:
Joanne Malkus Simpson
Jerri Nielsen
Julia Slingo
Lesley Gray
Susan Solomon
Jo Haigh
Gabi Hegerl
Ulrike Lohmann
Dorothy  M Koch (not the one you find on wikipedia)
Liane Benning
Dian Seidel
Karin Labitzke
Helen Byrne
Sarah Waters
Kathryn Gillow
Diane Maclagan.

To contribute to the Guardian’s celebration of women in science, see

Also, several people pointed out that Wikipedia entries for female scientists are generally a lot less extensive than those for men. Projects to remedy this such as that at
Brown University

try to redress the balance.

Finally, there are also voices  questioning whether historical figures should be used in this way, e.g.

*Ada Lovelace was a leading 19th century mathematician, daughter of the poet Lord
Byron and described herself as a “poetical scientist”. She is often described as the first computer programmer, although this is a matter of debate. She has left a lasting legacy as a role model for women around the world working in
science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). And  in 2012 she was
honoured by a Google doodle