When I started researching women for these cards, I immediately thought of Lisa Randall and Janna Levin. They each wrote books that I read--Warped Passaged: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions and How the Universe Got Its Spots. Next I thought of Carolyn Shoemaker of Comet Shoemaker-Levy fame. Then Jill Tarter, former Director of the SETI Institute and Carolyn Porco, who leads the imaging science team for Saturn. Five women. Could I find enough women to make a deck of cards?
I found so many stellar women in the physical sciences that I could make many decks of cards. The problem became one of narrowing the possibilities to just 54. I learned so much during my research. The cards highlight only a few of each woman’s accomplishments. But each has a much richer story.
Hypatia, a Greek mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher was way ahead of her time, but died at the hand of a murderer in the year 415. Caroline Herschel, the first women to discover a comet, fell into astronomy as a profession. She had an illness as a child that stunted her growth and impaired her vision in one eye. Her family assumed no one would want to marry her, so Caroline ended up living in her brother’s household. When he took an interest in astronomy, she did took an interest as well. They worked together, and she became an astronomer of her own right. She was the first woman in England to be paid for her work in astronomy. That was in 1787. In contrast, Priscilla Fairfield Bok, astronomer and co-author of one of the most successful popular science books--The Milky Way—was not paid for her work at Harvard. The Director of Harvard who hired Priscilla’s husband as professor, stipulated that Priscilla could do her research and writing at Harvard College Observatory only without pay. That was in the 20th century.
Many women died too early, like Judith Young, who started the Sunwheel project. Sunwheels—like Stonehenge—keep people in touch with the cycles of the moon and the sun. Judith, a professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, built one there. But her long-term vision was to see sunwheels built in all the national parks. Working with the public was just one of her passions. She managed to publish more than 130 papers and receive the Goeppert-Mayer Award for being the best young physicist in the world. Her mother, Vera Rubin was also an astronomer. Vera's specialty was dark matter. Some people think Vera deserved a Nobel prize. Vera, like many other women in the physical sciences, did not get the recognition she deserved in her lifetime. .
I encourage you to pick a card, any card, and do your own research. Learn that woman’s story, and I’m sure you’ll be as inspired as I am.