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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Saturday’s Google Doodle Celebrates Physicist Laura Bassi | Science - Forbes

Kiona N. Smith, Forbes observes, Saturday’s Google Doodle honors physicist Laura Bassi, the first woman to earn a doctorate in science. 


Bassi spent much of her 46-year career exploring the physics of electricity and popularizing Isaac Newton’s ideas about motion and gravity. She also fought for decades to be allowed to teach, research, and publicly present her work on the same terms as her male colleagues.

Nerves Of Steel

24 years before Bassi was born, an English physicist and mathematician named Isaac Newton published a book explaining the physical laws that govern how objects move and how gravity influences them. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (commonly known as Newton’s Principia, because he published it in Latin, as one did in the 1600s) is one of the foundations of modern physics...

It’s worth pausing to take note of a couple of things about that particular “first.” The most important is that obtaining a doctorate from a university was, at the time, a specifically European way of recognizing a person’s knowledge. The fact that Piscopia and Bassi were the first women to earn PhDs doesn’t mean they were the first women in the world to teach philosophy and science, or to engage in research or writing about those subjects. It just means that they were the first in Europe to have their knowledge and work recognized in a particular way.

Second, the average doctoral thesis in 1732 was a few orders of magnitude shorter than the average doctoral thesis in 2021, so we shouldn’t picture Bassi defending 49 modern-style dissertations, each with hundreds of pages of text and references. 

Read more... 

Source: Forbes