W. N. (‘Chris’) Christiansen was an innovative and influential radio astronomy pioneer. The hallmarks of his long and distinguished career in science and engineering, spanning almost five decades, were his inventiveness and his commitment to, and success with, large-scale projects. These projects were the outcome of his innovative skill as physicist and engineer. Paralleling this was his equal commitment to forging strong international links and friendships, leading to his election as Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union for the years 1964 to 1970, as President of the International Union of Radio Science, URSI, from 1978 to 1981, and subsequently as Honorary Life President in 1984, and as Foreign Secretary of the Australian Academy of Science from 1981 to 1985. Major subsequent developments in radio astronomy and wireless communications on the global scene stand as a legacy to Chris’s approach to his work and to the development of those who worked with him.
For all of their faults as a company, the Google Doodle team does a really good job of celebrating the most incredible people you’ve probably never heard about (1)Well, there goes my search engine ranking. In this way, the public gets to learn about some truly incredible individuals or events that would otherwise go unnoticed.
One of those people is astronomer Maria Mitchell, who became America’s first female professional astronomer. From her website:
Maria Mitchell (pronounced Ma-RYE-ah) was an astronomer, librarian, naturalist, and above all, educator. She discovered a comet through a telescope, for which she was awarded a gold medal by the King of Denmark. She was then thrust into the international spotlight and became America’s first professional female astronomer.
Her contributions to the field of Astronomy are worth checking out, starting with her big break into the field with the discovery of a comet!
However, along with becoming the first woman professional astronomer, a quick read of her Wikipedia entry reveals that she was also the first woman to be paid far less than her male counterparts. Fortunately, she demanded a raise, and got it.
But back to Mitchell, definitely read up about her. We still have a long way to go toward making astronomy a more equal field, but we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without Mitchell taking that first step.