Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Joan Feynman

From Auroras to anthropology “Women can’t do science, because their brains aren’t made for it,” Lucille Feynman declared to her eight-year-old daughter Joan. The news was a huge blow to the little girl’s ambitions which, at the time in 1935, were firmly set on following her brother Richard into a life scientific. “I remember sitting in a chair and weeping,” she recalls.
"The path of Joan’s life would be changed significantly one night when Richard woke her up and told her to get dressed and follow him out into the street. He took her away from the house and the street lights and out onto a wide open golf course nearby with a big dark sky above them. “I can still remember in my mind’s eye the green lights dancing in the sky”, Joan recalls of the flickering northern lights Richard had lead her outside to witness. “He told me that it was an aurora and no one knew what caused it exactly.”
In that moment, she was hooked. And whilst the doubts about a woman’s abilities to undertake a career in science, planted in her by Lucille, remained, Joan’s interest in science continued to be fuelled by Richard’s progress through university. Before he’d left home, her brother had made a deal with her that whilst away at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studying for his bachelor’s degree, he would answer any science question that she sent him."

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