Whoever Shines Must Be Observed

Laura Callaghan | Ireland, 2020

Whoever Shines Must Be Observed

For INVISIBLE (13.03.2020 — 31.05.2020) Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin commissioned illustrator Laura Callaghan to create a portrait of three Irish women who made significant contributions to astrophysics and astronomy: Annie Russell Maunder (left), Mary Bruck (middle) and Mary Ward (right).

As historian of science Margaret Rossiter says in her book Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940, “It is important to note early that women’s historically subordinate ‘place,’ in science (and thus their invisibility to even experienced historians of science) was not a coincidence and was not due to any lack of merit on their part. It was due to the camouflage intentionally placed over their presence in science.” There have been female scientists for as long as there has been science: we don’t hear about them because they were written out of history, or their role in scientific discovery was downplayed to ‘assistant’ or ‘wife’ while male collaborators were given credit for their work.

The women pictured deserve recognition for their contributions to science. They are three of many who — even today — face discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender and socioeconomic background, all barriers preventing talented people from making full and valuable contributions to science.

The title of the piece, Whoever Shines Must Be Observed, is a reference to Whatever Shines Must Be Observed, a book by Irish astrophysicist Susan McKenna-Lawlor that documents the lives of female Irish scientists. The name of the book is a translation of quicquid nitet notandum, the motto of William Herschel, a famous 18th Century astronomer and brother of fellow astronomer Caroline Herschel, the first woman awarded a Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Mary Ward (1827-1869)

An astronomer, artist, microscopist and entrepreneur, Mary Ward was born in a time when women had no access to formal education. She came from a wealthy family with a strong interest in science: her parents gave her a microscope by when she turned 18, and she was able to access a telescope at Birr Observatory, run by her cousin the Earl of Rosse. Mary Ward used these resources to study the universe at both large and small scales, publishing several popular illustrated books on microscopy and astronomy.

Annie Russell Maunder (1868-1947)

One of the first women elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, Annie Maunder was an astronomer who studied at Cambridge (but wasn’t allowed to graduate because women weren’t permitted to receive degrees). She worked as a ‘computer’ at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, carrying out complex astronomical calculations until she was forced to retire when she got married. She is most well known for her later work on solar physics, including collaborating with her husband Walter Maunder on the ‘butterfly diagram’, which plots the movement of sunspots across the surface of the sun. The butterfly diagram can be seen behind her in the mural.

Mary Brück (1925-2008)

Mary Brück was an Irish astrophysicist and historian of science who worked at Dunsink Observatory in Castleknock and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. She received a PhD in solar physics from the University of Edinburgh, researching stars, the interstellar medium, and the Magellanic Clouds. She also wrote extensively about the history of science, particularly the history of women in science, highlighting the contributions of women to astrophysics and astronomy.

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