November = LadyNerd month

picture from
Marie Curie – picture from

While every day should be LadyNerd Day, I would like to nominate November as LadyNerd Appreciation Month. And not just because it’s my birthday. I did a bit of internetting and found a few others to help me make a go of what could be called LadyNerdvember. Catchy.

If you’ve seen LadyNerd, you’ll know that I’m born on the same day as Marie Curie (1867) – discoverer of radioactivity and two new elements, two-time Nobel Prize winner, and the only person to date to win Nobels in two separate categories.

Madame Curie and I share a cake on November 7 with physicist Lise Meitner (1878) – one in a trio of scientists who discovered nuclear fission (whose story is cited as a notorious case of sexism that resulted in a Nobel snub – up there with Rosalind Franklin).

On November 7, the three of us blow out candles alongside current-day computer scientist Barbara Liskov who – among many other achievements, laid the groundwork for programming languages such as Java – was one of the first people in the US to earn a PhD in computer science (and the first woman to do so).  Like Marie Curie, and though nearly 80 years had passed, Liskov was rejected by a university (graduate school at Princeton, no less) because she was female. Not that this stopped either of them.

November is also the birth month of another one featured in LadyNerd: Hedy Lamarr. Touted then (and now) as the most beautiful woman in the world, this glamorous actress of Hollywood’s golden era also happened to be co-inventor of frequency hopping.  It was conceived in the hope that it might help the allies’ war efforts via radio-guided weaponry, but ultimately wound up in our mobile phones and wi-fi.  November 9, 2014, would have been her 100th birthday.

No LadyNerdy list of mine is complete without a local representative, and here’s a current-day kicker: Australian-American Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, born November 26 in Hobart. A biological researcher, Blackburn discovered the enzyme telomerase, associated with telomeres – chromosome endings. Blackburn has investigated this enzyme in relation to stress, cancer, ageing and infection.  (And, coincidentally, I just read that the first clear biological evidence of a mind-body connection involves telomeres {biologist I clearly am not, but this is cool}).

Back to LadyNerdvember! (catchy!)

American women’s rights activist and pioneer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born on November 12, 1815. She wrote and lectured on women’s rights and led the campaign to get women the right to vote.  She also advocated for women’s right to divorce and, perhaps unsurprisingly, omitted “obey” from her marital vows. (It’s also rumoured that Tina Fey named her Mean Girls heroine Cady after both her college friend and suffragette Stanton.)

Finally, let’s look to the skies – Jerrie Mock, born November 22, was the first woman to fly solo around the world.  The mum of three took off 27 years after Amelia Earhart went missing attempting the same thing. After 29 days, 21 stops, and about 37,000km, Mock landed back in Ohio in 1964. She said: “Nobody was going to tell me I couldn’t do it because I was a woman.”

Look, they probably did. But she was too busy being awesome to notice.


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